International Womens Day. Rewards for those that bridge the diversity divide.

International Women’s Day is 8 March and this year’s theme is ‘Each for Equal’. Among other things, the campaign highlights that gender equality is not a female issue it’s a business issue and is essential for economies and communities to thrive.

New Zealand businesses are moving the diversity dial 

Last month, the New Zealand Exchange released its 2019 diversity statistics and it showed that 29% of directors in S&P/NZX50 companies are female, up from 27.6% in 2018. The report also shows that 100% of S&P/NZX50 companies now have a diversity policy (up from 93.9%).

These positive trends indicate that New Zealand businesses are recognising the simple fact that diversity is good for business.  

But recent news reports regarding gender pay disparity at New Zealand’s Universities and TVNZ show that while the dial is moving, we are still not where we need to be if we are to realise the potential that will come from a more gender diverse New Zealand workforce.

At Randstad, we find that the companies we work with who encourage gender diversity at work have more engaged staff, represent their customers better and are more profitable. In a diverse workforce, people feel valued for the varying skill sets, fresh ideas and perspectives they bring to the table and this can also pay dividends in terms of innovation.  

The Diversity Dividend Report, a Deloitte Access Economics report for Westpac New Zealand, has estimated that if New Zealand could achieve gender equality in leadership, the participation benefits would lead to the economy being around $881 million larger, equivalent to 0.33% of gross domestic product (GDP). 

cultivating a more diverse talent pool

In my experience, the majority of New Zealand businesses we work with have no issues with putting females in leadership roles. However, what can be problematic is the candidate pool. Westpac’s report indicated that the number one barrier to gender parity in leadership was a lack of female talent in the pipeline.

We find that those businesses who want to improve the diversity of their talent pipeline should consider how they are positioning themselves when it comes to recruitment. Communicating specific policies during the recruitment process may help attract a more diverse selection of candidates.

For example, we know from our Employer Brand Research that achieving good work-life balance is important to New Zealanders. If candidates see companies championing this inside their organisation, then they may see that reaching their career goals doesn't have to be at the expense of personal goals. Vodafone introducing flexible working over the summer is a good example of this.

It’s also important for candidates to get better at doing their own homework, asking the tough questions upfront to ensure there is alignment with their own goals and avoid any surprises down the track.

There are many women that simply shy away from applying for or accepting senior positions as they don’t see how they can balance their time between a demanding workload and family.

It’s frustrating for the women that know they’ve got the talent to offer but don’t feel they have the time, don’t want to put themselves first or feel that they are neglecting other important parts of their lives. 

It’s also frustrating for employers who recognise and want to utilise those talented women but can’t convince them to take the next step.

a sustainable life balance for all 

Let’s consider a scenario where there’s a family with two working parents, both in senior roles in companies that encourage sustainable life balance for all staff. 

The parents share the load when it comes to home admin, school trips, homework and sports runs. They both enjoy being involved in their kids’ lives. They may also travel for work, do late night conference calls, manage staff and exceed their KPIs. And they both love their jobs. 

Does it sound far-fetched, unlikely or even impossible? 

It’s not. It can be done. It’s not always easy and it does take planning, organisation and plenty of communication but it’s possible, when the right support structures are in place. At home and work.

future success depends on diversity

At Randstad, we believe everyone benefits from diversity and inclusion at work. We also believe all workers should be supported in finding a sustainable life balance and this will be a factor in achieving diversity. 

It’s also what New Zealand workers want. 

Randstad’s 2019 Employer Brand Research found that Kiwis were leaving roles in search of a better work-life balance, in fact this was ranked the second highest reason for changing jobs.

As we celebrate this year’s International Women's Day, we certainly hope New Zealand businesses take note of the message that gender equality is not a female issue but a business issue, because we believe that the most successful New Zealand companies of the future will be those that ensure they have a diverse workforce.