Women urged to be assertive as senior management numbers fall

FRIDAY MARCH 6, 2015
Grant Thornton partner Stacey Davies

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Is the number of women on NZ boards plummeting because they’re not assertive enough?

The number of women on boards of directors is plummeting because they are not being assertive enough.

This is the view of Grant Thornton partner Stacey Davies.

She was commenting on New Zealand dropping to 28th place in a league table of 35 countries measuring the proportion of women in leadership roles.

This compares with a ranking of 15th in 2014 and 3rd in 2004.

Grant Thornton also found that 19% of senior management positions in the businesses surveyed were held by women – an all time low and below the long-run average of 28%.

Thirty-seven per cent of the New Zealand businesses surveyed don’t have any women in senior management. This number has steadily increased over the years from 26% in 2012 and is higher than the global average of 32%.

Ms Davies says it’s not the result of lack of education.

She says women think that, if they work hard, they will be recognised.

But they can’t wait to be invited to the top table – they need to push themselves forward, she says.

“None of the New Zealand women surveyed perceived a gender bias. However, 7% of the male sample saw a gender bias. The global average of women who think there is gender bias is 19%, which is the same in Australia. Perhaps this suggests some element of naivety in New Zealand around gender bias.”

Ms Davies says research has shown women’s leadership styles and mistakes are judged more harshly than men’s by their peers and that men are promoted based on potential, while women are promoted based on past accomplishments.

Lack of role models is also cited in the research.

But support for a quota system is 40%, down from 44% two years ago. Overseas surveys show support for quotas at 47%.

Ms Davies says while she has mixed feelings about quotas, the latest findings suggest a shakeup is required if businesses want to “unlock the potential” of all employees.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz

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