Assertion needed as women suffer "dramatic" absence around NZ board tables

Why New Zealand business women have to be more assertive if they want to arrest the alarming drop in their numbers in senior management roles across the country...

New Zealand business women have to be more assertive if they want to arrest the alarming drop in their numbers in senior management roles in this country, according to the latest research from Grant Thornton.

Figures released from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, show that New Zealand women are going backwards rapidly on several fronts when it comes to senior management and boardroom appointments.

Stacey Davies, Partner, Privately Held Business at Grant Thornton New Zealand, reports that New Zealand has dropped to 28th place in a league table of 35 countries surveyed compared with 15th out of 45 countries surveyed in 2014.

“In 2004 New Zealand was ranked third in the world of the countries surveyed, so in a little over a decade we have gone from being world leaders to trailing near the bottom,” Davies says.

“It’s concerning that the trend is accelerating having dropped 13 places in one year.”

Currently only 19 percent of New Zealand businesses surveyed have women in senior management positions – an all-time low since the survey started in 2004 and 9 percent below New Zealand’s long run average of 28 percent.

“The rate of decline is extremely worrying,” she adds. “Thirty-seven percent of New Zealand businesses surveyed don’t have any women in senior management.

“This number has steadily increased over the years from 26 percent in 2012 and is higher than the global average of 32 percent. New Zealand has the dubious honour of being in the top 12 countries with no women in senior management.”

But why?

“It has nothing to do with the level of education,” Davies adds. “Survey data shows that women have no problem holding their own when it comes to earning the qualifications to get them in the door.

“The results from last year showed a worrying downward trend and perhaps we are now seeing that come to fruition.

“There is also potentially a perception amongst women that if they work hard they will be recognised and rewarded for their work. This is just not eventuating.”

As Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg writes in her book Lean In - ‘Hard work and results should be recognised by others, but when they aren't, advocating for oneself becomes necessary.’

As a result, Davies claims women “can’t just sit back and wait” to be invited to the top table, they need to invite themselves or push to be invited.

“In my own career, and seeing the same in many others over the years, I have found that you have to put your hand up for the stretch assignments, take a step (or sometimes a giant leap) outside your comfort zone and be your own best advocate as you simply cannot rely on someone else to do it for you,” she says.

Senior Management

The study also looked at perceived barriers to achieving a position in senior management with sixty nine percent of New Zealand women failing to see any barriers to advancing into senior roles.

However, this declines to 55 percent when adding the male portion of the sample into the mix, meaning there are some barriers but women aren’t aware of them.

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