Apurv Shukla –
The Fifth Annual Indian Newslink Sir Anand Satyanand Lecture held on Monday, July 27, 2015 at Pullman Hotel Auckland underlined the ‘Role of Women in Governance.’
Attended by about 350 people of varied ethnicities comprising politicians, government officials, barristers, lawyers, accountants, corporate leaders and others, the event provided an opportunity to ascertain how New Zealand scores in providing representation to women in decision making positions.
Jan Dawson, Chairperson, Westpac and Deputy Chairperson, Air New Zealand was the Guest Speaker, while Dr Susan Macken, BNZ Director and Member of the treasury was the Master of ceremonies, with Wendy Palmer, Chief Executive, Media Works Radio providing insights into the Role of Women in Media and Ranjna Patel, Director, East Tamaki Health Care and Bank of Baroda providing her Reflections on the proceedings.
Earlier, welcoming the guests, Indian Newslink Limited Managing Director Jacob Mannothra said that the subject of this year’s Lecture was timely and that it is vital for New Zealand’s continued progress as a multicultural country promoting gender equality and diversity.
“We have instituted this Lecture series as a focal point for Good Governance, which is imperative to our success as business people, organisations and as individuals. I am sure this Lecture will inspire all of us especially the women to achieve against all odds,” he said.
Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand Zealand outlined his vision for the annual Lecture series. He said that this event was delivering to a discerning audience, a worthwhile contribution to the discourse about principle and law and governance.
He traced the journey of women in occupying positions of imminence in public life, since the country became the first place where women were accorded the right to suffrage in 1893. “From Elizabeth Yates becoming the first woman mayor, the country has seen many women heading City Councils. The hostility that Elizabeth encountered in doing her job may have considerably reduced, but much more can be done to increase the stake that women have in governance,” he said.
Ms Dawson said that New Zealand has provided families with ‘wonderful opportunities’ to have a good work-life balance.
“This is the ideal mix for women trying to raise families alongside pursuing professional growth. But the issue at hand is whether this provision is being optimised. The NZX mentioned in its latest report that the share of women in senior management positions was only 14%. Although this represented an increase of 2% over the previous year’s figures, much more needs to be done to achieve gender equality,” she said.
The Global Gender Gap Report said that in 2013, trailblazing New Zealand had slipped from fifth to seventh place, behind Ireland and the Philippines.
An international business report released last year found that the average proportion of women in senior roles in New Zealand businesses has remained stuck at 31% for the past ten years.
“In December 2013, ‘Catalyst,’ a non-profit research and advocacy group for women in business reported that in the last decade there has been no progress in moving women into top leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies either as Executive Officers or as participants on the Board of Directors. The survey indicated that women held only 16.9% of corporate board seats in 2013, indicating no significant increase for the eighth straight year. Only 14.6% of executive officer positions were held by women and 10% of the companies had no women serving on their boards,” Ms Dawson said.
The underrepresentation of women in boards was a sharp contrast to the important role that they play in their homes. Women decide on almost 75% of all purchase activities, she said.
“Are not our companies missing the point completely by not incorporating more of women’s prospective and insight on how to improve corporate performance, and market their goods and services better? As we rapidly evolve into a digital society, this purchasing power which women hold is only set to increase,” Ms Dawson said.
Goldman Sachs Report 2011 stated that New Zealand’s GDP can increase by as much as 10% if more women were a part of the decision-making process. Public and private sector undertakings should concert their efforts to achieve this goal without compromising merit. Apportioning quotas will make this a form of tokenism; defeating the purpose completely, the Report said.
Ms Dawson also quoted Credit Suisse Report 2014, which disclosed the ‘Kiwi Workforce paradox. “While 64% of all graduates are women, only a few women reach the top management level,” it said.
“Westpac is committed to increasing the share of women in senior management roles to 70% next year, up from the current level of 45%. This is also an incentive to attract and retain talented women in our ranks. Westpac is doing more than any other bank in providing work conditions that are suited to women and young families,” Ms Dawson said.
Additional reports and pictures on Page 1, this Section and under Businesslink.
- Sir Anand Satyanand, Jacob Mannothra, Jan Dawson, Dr Susan Macken, Wendy Palmer, Ranjna Patel, Mai Chen
- Dr Rajen Prasad, Ranjna Patel and Vino Ramayah
(Pictures by Narendra Bedekar and Sai Bedekar)