Women are the backbone of families, communities, businesses and economies.
We’ve come a long way but we still have a very long way to go.
Eighty-three years ago, the first woman was elected to our Parliament but women are not making the inroads into decision making or leadership roles we should be. Only 31% of our MPs are women, while women from ethnic minorities make up a very small percentage of MPs.
Female public servant CEOs are up from 16% to 40% in just 5 years, but most head smaller departments. And once again, women from ethnic minorities barely feature as CEOs.
Government makes hundreds of appointments to public boards every year: This is an area where ministers can have an immediate impact on gender as well as ethnic equity.
I am not saying appoint people to boards just because they are women: we need the best person for the job but it doesn’t make sense that the best person for the job is always men. Or people from the same ethnic group.
Good governance skills are not inherently male skills: I am convinced there are women with the right expertise for these roles.
A good board director does not need to be an expert on a board’s subject matter: If this were true then most cabinet ministers would never be put in charge of portfolios they are not subject experts on.
Directors need operational understanding as well as strategic and common sense. Many women are natural CEOS, in charge of their own families: management and leadership is something we do every day. How many women are involved in community groups and voluntary organisations?
It’s critical that women ensure not only put themselves forward for jobs and positions: but that we encourage each other to do so too.
Dame Susan Devoy is Race Relations Commissioner of New Zealand.