Champions for Change: Top New Zealand business leaders pledge to push for diversity

Thirty-nine New Zealand business leaders made a commitment to achieve diverse and inclusive leadership at the Champions for Change launch in Auckland today.

The new initiative, launched by Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Bill English, aims to infuse New Zealand businesses with a culture that encourages diverse leadership as New Zealand continues to globalise. Diversity and inclusion will unleash wider talent pools, diverse thinking, greater innovation, improved decision-making and ultimately better returns for shareholders.

Leading the initiative are Champions for Change Co-Chairs Dame Jenny Shipley, Chair of CERA and Genesis, and past Chair of Global Women, and Anthony Healy, CEO and Managing Director of BNZ.

“Our approach with the Champions for Change initiative will be to set the goal of increased diversity and inclusive leadership in New Zealand by 2020,” says Anthony Healy.

He says transparency and accountability will be key, with public reporting of progress annually.


Diversity in Gender

Healy says Goldman Sachs predicted New Zealand’s GDP would increase by 10 percent if we were to close the gap between men and women in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors, but the situation remains dire: latest Human Rights Commission data shows the presence of women in senior management positions in the private sector has hugely decreased in the last four years. In 2011 women comprised roughly a third of all senior management positions in the private sector and yet now, in 2015, they make up only a fifth.

“This is not just counter-intuitive – it is deeply worrying.”

Dame Jenny Shipley says balanced diversity in the workplace has been studied in a number of countries and several have carried out successful initiatives.

“The United Kingdom provides us with perhaps the best example of how a deliberate and well planned initiative can shift engrained attitudes in a relatively short period of time. In 2010 women made up only 12.5 percent of the corporate boards of FTSE 100 companies. The British Government commissioned a report to aim for a minimum of 25 percent female representation by 2015,” she says.

“Earlier this year it was confirmed that Britain’s top boardrooms were set to meet the 25 percent target by the end of this year and, as of November that number stood at just over 26 percent. There are also no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 100.”

She says the UK Government’s backing can also be partially credited with causing special interest groups to be formed of which the best known and arguably the most successful is the 30 Percent Club.

“While this group is focused only on gender equality and in lifting the bar even further to having 30 percent of women on FTSE 100 Boards by the end of this year, it can provide us with some useful guidelines for our own programme.”

The 30 Percent Club uses five critical factors:

  • Developing measurable goals with defined timetables;Achieving a political consensus that the status quo was and is unacceptable;
  • Ensuring that change is driven by those in power;
  • Demonstrating an openness to collaborate;
  • And devising a concerted and consistent series of actions and programmes, from schoolrooms to boardrooms.

Another example is the ‘Male Champions of Change’ – a collection of CEOs and directors of many of Australia’s leading companies including ANZ, Qantas, Telstra and others. The driving force in their organisation is their ‘Action Plan’ which consists of four themes on which they report regularly.

The Four Themes of Male Champions for Change:

  • Stepping up as leaders – creating momentum to increase the representation of women in leadership requires stepping up and changing conventional ways, demonstrating commitment, prioritising issues and leading with action;
  • Creating accountability – sharpening their focus and bringing the full management system to bear across all of their company’s business processes with clear targets and accountability
  • Disrupting the status quo – Not assuming that the obstacles to women’s advancement are inevitable or insurmountable; and
  • Dismantling barriers for carers – re-designing roles, career paths, policies and processes to take into account career breaks along the way to senior leadership positions for those with caring responsibilities.


Diversity in Ethnicity

Dame Jenny Shipley says ethnic diversity is another rapidly growing area of consideration as New Zealand moves closer to Asia in economic and trade terms and as the Maori economy continues to grow as a major political and economic force.

Empirical evidence suggests ethnicities other than European are very under-represented in the workforce but there is a lack of data available to support this and work towards improving it. The Human Rights Commission has published some data showing that Maori, Pacific Island and Asian are hugely under-represented in proportion to their numbers in the public service and Shipley’s view is that the same is almost certainly true of the private sector, if not even worse.

There is also no clear measurement of the other diversity factors amongst New Zealand leadership such as sexual orientation, age or people living with disabilities.

Movement in the market

Organisations like IAG, BNZ and Westpac are among others who have achieved turnarounds in diversity and inclusion statistics. IAG has a Diversity and Inclusion Action Group and each quarter the company carries out a diversity scorecard to measure achieving its objectives; last year BNZ was the supreme winner at the United Nations White Camellia Awards, and it also received the Deloitte Top 200 Diversity Leadership Award, both in recognition of the bank’s leadership on gender equality. It was named as one of the top 50 companies for women to work for in APEC; Westpac has a high profile #youbeyou campaign supporting its GLBT employees and this year won a United Nations White Camellia Award for equal opportunity, inclusion and non-discrimination, recognising the way the bank treats all women and men fairly at work, respects and supports human rights and non-discrimination.

What’s next?

The next major event for the Champions for Change will be the leaders’ summit in March 2016, at which benchmarks and goals will be set and agreement on measurement against these. There will also be agreement on the reporting standards to be used. Key areas of focus and work streams to be undertaken by the Champions will be established.

Global Women is the catalyst of Champions for Change and will provide its secretariat to the initiative. The initiative aligns seamlessly with Global Women’s efforts to move the dial on gender and diversity in New Zealand organisations.

Global Women has developed several initiatives focussing on the wider diversity agenda. Global Women’s DiverseNZ project 2012 -2014 brought together 40 corporate partners to develop a series of conversations, workshops, meet-ups, surveys and resources, online and offline, to accelerate the diversity journey. It was this year further developed into a major new initiative focussed on developing Maori and Pasifika tertiary students and early career graduates into future corporate leaders, to be launched into the market early next year.


Committed Champions as at November 2015:


Adrian Littlewood, CEO Auckland Airport

Albert Brantley, CEO Genesis Energy

Anna Stove, CEO GSK

Anthony Healy, CEO BNZ

Barbara Chapman, CEO ASB

Barrie Sheers, MD Microsoft  NZ

Brian Roche, CEO NZ Post

Bruce Hassall, CEO PWC

Cathy Quinn, Chair Minter Ellison Rudd Watts

Chris Gordon, Managing Partner Bell Gully

Chris Luxon, CEO Air New Zealand

Dame Jenny Shipley, Chair Genesis Energy

David McLean, CEO Westpac

David Hisco, CEO ANZ

Dennis Barnes, CEO Contact Energy

Gabriel Makhlouf, CEO Treasury

Gary McDiarmid, CEO Russell McVeagh

Grainne Moss, CEO BUPA

Jacki Johnson, CEO IAG

Jason Walker, CEO Hays

Kirsten Patterson, New Zealand Country Head, Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand

Mai Chen, Managing Partner Chen Palmer

Mark Rushworth, CEO PayMark

Mark Adamson, CEO Fletcher Building

Mark Verbiest, Chair Spark

Mike Bush, NZ Police Commissioner

Nicky Bell, CEO Saatchi & Saatchi

Nigel Morrison, CEO SKYCITY

Paul Herrod, CEO KPMG

Peter Chrisp, CEO NZTE

Rob Lee, MD IBM

Simon Moutter, CEO Spark

Simon O’Connor, Managing Partner EY

Simon Tong, CEO Fairfax Media

Sir Ralph Norris, Chair Fletcher Building

Stephen Town, CEO Auckland Council

Sue Sheldon, Chair PayMark

Theo Spierings, CEO Fonterra

Thomas Pippos, CEO Deloitte

Tony Gibson, CEO Ports of Auckland