Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Men Leading Badly

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Leadership: Men Leading Badly

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg Birchfield

There is a leadership issue out there which, while some may consider me less than qualified to address, is nevertheless dear to my heart. Women! There simply aren't enough of them. Well, not on the boards of our major companies anyhow.

The latest addition to a living library of literature and research on how few women get to draw up a chair at our biggest board tables simply confirms what most of us men know. We're not giving up our leadership without a fight, or maybe a directive to do so.

New Zealand is, according to international talent management company Korn/Ferry (see page 60), one of the world's success stories when it comes to keeping women out of the boardroom. Our defence-centric rugby DNA may have something to do with it.

For a while there it looked like women might just be getting the upper-hand. Unsatisfied with being the first to get the vote in a western democracy a 100 or so years ago, they eventually went on to snatch all the perk jobs -- Prime Minister, Governor General, Chief Justice, CEO of Telecom -- you name it.

But, as veteran feminist activist and writer Gloria Steinem recently told Time magazine: the idea put about that the fight for women's rights is over is simply a clever (male) "way of stopping progress".

It doesn't look, however, like Kiwi male leaders -- particularly corporate directors and even more particularly, chairmen of boards of directors -- understand what a disservice they are doing New Zealand by treating women as elephants in the corporate corner. For so many logical, practical, economic, political, social and moral reasons, New Zealand needs more women in leadership roles and on boards of directors in particular. It is surprising that the same men who generally credit themselves with being more logical than women, do either not understand or, refuse to act on this urgent need.

Male leadership is, as Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor has put it, "an essential key to cracking the pitifully low number of women on the boards of our major corporate companies". The Korn/Ferry research shows just how "pitiful" that statistic is. The reality and reasons for this state of affairs are difficult to understand and beg a number of questions.

Are Kiwi corporate male leaders so stupid they cannot read the writing on the walls of our fast changing and evolving world? …

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