top of page
  • Our Words Matter

New Zealand needs a quota to get women onto boards

Opinion contributed by Jo Cribb, republished from

Women, are we the ones holding back progress on increasing the number of us on boards and leading New Zealand's companies?

The proportion of women in the country's board rooms increased to 28.4 per cent in 2018, according to the NZX diversity statistics released in July, which hardly calls for a great celebration - but it's tracking the right way.

But the countries we like to compare ourselves to are doing better. Latest data for the ASX200 shows 29.5 per cent of Australia's directors are women and 32.1 per cent are in the FTSE100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange).

And most importantly the proportion of women in executive positions in these NZX listed companies continues to track down.

Having a range of views around a board and management table means better decisions will be made and companies will be more profitable as a result. But we have a way to go to cash in on the productivity dividend diversity can provide.

Some countries (and even one state in America) have decided that that productivity dividend is too important to leave to chance or the goodwill of individual boards. They have legislated quotas.

New Zealand needs to follow suite, C-suite that is.

I am too impatient to wait for the statistics to crawl up individual board appointment by individual board appointment, especially when the proportion of women in executive roles is trending down.

But I think that some of the biggest opponents of board quotas are women.

'I don't want to be seen as the token woman' I have heard often.

No one is advocating for unqualified, inexperienced or incompetent women or men to be appointed to any board or executive positions. There is no shortage of talented women who are and will be board and C-suite ready.

My reply to women who take this position is: have confidence in your own ability, you will be or have been appointed for your skills and experience. Yes, others may try to undermine you by suggesting you are there only for your gender. Tell them to take a hike (or use similar more strongly worded phrases).

I have also heard, 'We can get there on our own merits', or, 'I did it, you can too'. But if we are committed to the future prosperity of New Zealand we will be focused on how we can support other women, indeed all talented New Zealanders, to achieve their leadership potential.

Quotas do not need to diminish the achievement of women, nor undermine our competence.

Do we really want to face our daughters or grand-daughters when in a decade's time they ask us why the women in leadership statistics have not improved and why we opposed quotas?

Writing this, I feel like I am breaking some sort of code and being disloyal to the sisterhood. So much blame and expectation is already placed on women's shoulders.

In the struggle to be taken seriously, to be promoted, to be heard, to juggle, to deal with harassment and both blatant and hidden discrimination, have we been too determined to prove ourselves, on our own terms, by ourselves?

Quotas will only level the playing field. We will still have to be talented, competent, and work exceptionally hard.

But if we do not want to advocate for quotas for ourselves, let's do so to ensure the next generation of women leaders get the opportunity to lead in those board rooms and from the chief executive's office.


This article has been republished from Stuff. The original article and video can be accessed by clicking:

Jo Cribb is a consultant who works both in New Zealand and internationally to support organisations and their leaders to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. She is the former chief executive of the Ministry for Women.



Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page