Women need to change their mindset to secure the managerial positions currently occupied by males according to the New Zealand head of one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.
The lack of Kiwi women in the highest echelons of business is a result of many factors, says general manager of GSK New Zealand, Anna Stove, and change is not occurring fast enough.
A recent CEO Pay Survey showed there are currently no women in charge of New Zealand’s top listed-companies, and a Human Rights Commission’s Tracking Equality at Work report found women in senior management positions in the private sector has declined from 31 percent in 2014 to 19 percent in 2015.
Perhaps more worryingly - women’s representation on private sector boards sits at just 14 percent which Stove believes is “simply not good enough.”
Stove says New Zealand is not alone with international research showing the trend towards women reaching the most senior corporate levels is only growing at one percent per annum.
Another study of gender disparity in senior positions found that a man starting a career with a blue chip corporation is 4.5 times more likely to reach the executive committee than a woman.
Stove, who took the helm at GSK NZ three years ago, says the responsibility to change the situation lies with Kiwi women and their employers, with both needing to change some long-held perceptions in order to foster higher levels of achievement for females in the corporate world.
A strong advocate of diversity in the workplace, Stove believes there are key changes women can make to ensure they reach their goals and secure top-level jobs.
“While some women will already be doing these things, others may not realise that a subtle shift in their thought processes could help them achieve their career goals far more easily,” she says.
“It’s not a case of having to behave like their male counterparts or change their personality, but rather learn how best to use their skills in the business world for a positive end result.”
Stove says while women are very good at creating social networks outside of work, often they don’t apply those same skills in the workplace.
"One of the keys to success in the corporate world is to form strong relationships and networks to ensure you are top of mind for a new role, promotion or training opportunity,” she adds.
Stove says networking in a business environment may not come naturally to all women, but taking any opportunity for it that arises, and ensuring they follow up connections with people via email, phone or social media following an event or meeting, is an easy way to expand their professional circle.
In addition, Stove says employers also have a role to play here and it's essential they make sure networking opportunities are not limited to times or places that could exclude women.
“A day on the golf course or an evening cocktail party may suit some women, but it may not work for others,” she adds.
“It’s the manager’s job to ensure their functions work for all their employees, regardless of their gender or commitments outside of the office.”
Stove says Kiwi business-women also tend to follow an international trend of only applying for promotions if they feel they meet 100 per cent of the qualifications listed for the position, as opposed to men, who are happy to apply if they meet just 60 per cent of the job requirements.