Increasing diversity in New Zealand’s boards

04 July 2016 / Published in Business

The value diversity brings is irrefutable. If you put a diverse group of people together, you will get a broader approach to problem solving and better outcomes.” – Michael Stiassny, Institute of Directors (IoD) President.

Our partners, the Institute of Directors, have developed a guide to help get diverse talent on boards. The launch of the new guide was celebrated at an event at ASB North Wharf, alongside this year’s intake of mentees for the Mentoring for Diversity programme.

Each year sees the intake of a new cohort; applications are sought from board-ready leaders whose diversity can contribute to the boards of New Zealand’s biggest organisations.

Mentees are chosen from the applications, and then paired up with some of New Zealand’s most experienced board directors. They’re then mentored for the next year.

The programme has been running for five years, and the latest cohort was inducted last week.

It’s just one of the ways that IoD contributes to the improvement of diversity in New Zealand boardrooms.

In its first three years the IoD’s Mentoring for Diversity programme linked experienced women directors but last year the programme expanded its focus to promote diversity in its wider sense.

Looking specifically at the inclusion of women on boards, New Zealand is falling behind other countries; in 2015 only 16.9% of directors of NZX listed boards were women, compared to 21.5% in Australia and 26% in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, 32% of NZX listed companies don’t have any women directors on their boards.

At last week’s event IoD CEO Simon Arcus referenced the story of Dr Seuss’ Sneetches. It’s a satire of discrimination, and the moral is that we’re all equal, even if we’re different.

That same thinking can be applied to business. Every single person is different but we all deserve to be treated equally. In turn, it makes good business sense to have our boards more accurately represent our diverse society.

We also heard from Alfred Ngaro – the first New Zealand MP of Cook Island descent. He’s a champion of diversity in government and business.

He explained that diversity starts with people’s stories, and we won’t break the divide until we take the time to understand people. These stories are what make us unique, and give us something to contribute.

He spoke about something his grandmother used to say: “You are not a problem to be solved; you are a potential to be realised.”

He asked us to look at diversity in the same way. Increased diversity in New Zealand boards and businesses is a huge potential that will lead to greater success.

IoD’s latest contribution to diversity – Getting on board with diversity – offers practical steps to help boards improve capability. It helps them attract and retain the best talent, leading to a more diverse culture that enables diverse thinking in the boardroom. Whether you’re a business owner, a board chairperson or a director, it’s well worth a read.


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