Champions for Change launches to achieve diverse leadership

Media Release: 17 November 2015

39 business leaders pledged a collective commitment to achieving diverse and inclusive leadership at the Champions for Change launch in Auckland today.

This new initiative, launched by Deputy Prime Minister the Honourable Bill English, brings a concerted focus to embedding a culture within New Zealand businesses that encourages a measurable step-change towards diverse leadership. The intention is to accelerate New Zealand’s future success and global competitive advantage through access to diversity of thought amongst our decision makers.

Co-Chairs of the initiative Dame Jenny Shipley, Chair of CERA and Genesis, and past Chair of Global Women, and Anthony Healy, CEO and Managing Director of BNZ will lead the Champions for Change initiative. They painted a sobering picture of New Zealand’s current standing in comparison with other countries and outlined an agenda to shift the dial on diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity and inclusion are intrinsically good for business,” said Anthony Healy. “It unleashes wider talent pools, diverse thinking, greater innovation, improved decision-making and ultimately better returns for shareholders. Capturing the value from these advantages will become incrementally more important as New Zealand’s marketplace globalises.

“New Zealand businesses are not currently taking full advantage of the wider skills and knowledge available from a broader range of people in senior leadership roles. For example, women currently make up only 21 percent of senior management and 14 percent of the boards of listed companies.”

Dame Jenny Shipley said that ethnic diversity was also a 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.

“The rapidly growing Asian population and the largest Pacific Island population in the world are additional drivers in this changing make-up of our New Zealand society. Yet these areas of ethnic diversity are yet to be reflected in the composition of our senior leadership.”

Establishing an accurate position on other issues of diversity other than gender is work that needs to be done Dame Jenny said. Empirical evidence suggests that ethnicities other than European are significantly under-represented in the workforce but there is a paucity of data available to support that and to quantify the opportunity for improvement. The Human Rights Commission has published some data showing that Maori, Pacific Island and Asian are significantly under-represented in proportion to their numbers in the public service and her view is that the same is almost certainly true of the private sector, if not even more starkly.

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

“Westpac’s research has shown that of the 1,000 Kiwis surveyed, nearly half of all employees in New Zealand, whether gay or straight, do not feel they can be their authentic selves at work,” Shipley said. “The Human Rights Commission tells us that 71.1% of all women with disabilities earn $30,000 or less and that the most marginalised group in terms of labour force participation in 2015 is disabled females over 65 years of age.”

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.

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 operationalise the initiative.

“We are delighted to support this concerted effort to move our nation forward and improve the diversity of our leadership,” said Sue Sheldon, Chair of Global Women. “This aligns perfectly with Global Women’s efforts to move the dial on gender and diversity in New Zealand organisations.

Sheldon said the organisation had 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. Champions for Change is a result of this initial DiverseNZ work also.

Champions are selected by their commitment and ability to lead diverse and inclusive strategies and impact large-scale change in New Zealand. More will be added over time, either by direct invitation from a peer or by indicating interest in the initiative and a proven commitment to promotion of diversity strategies in their own organisations.

Champions as at launch date are as follows:



First Name Surname Position Organisation
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 Quin CEO Minter Ellison
Chris Gordon Managing Partner Bell Gully
Chris Luxton 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 CEO CAANZ
Mai Chen Managing Partner Chen Palmer
Mark Rushworth CEO PayMark
Mark Adamson CEO Fletcher Building
Mark Verbiest Chair Spark
Mike Bush Commissioner NZ Police
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 CEO 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