Mike Hosking: Focus should be on performance, not gender

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Monday, 4 February 2019, 10:05a.m.
The calls for quotas is embarrassing for women, writes Mike Hosking. (Photo / Getty)

Unfortunately, the earnest and unrelenting push to remind us what a miserable lot of women in this country suffer from shows no signs of abating. Global Women have announced that the percentage of females on our boards is now officially an embarrassment.

Or to be more specific, an "international" embarrassment. They have figures to back their case. The percentage of women on NZX 50 boards is about 28 percent. That is similar to Australia's scenario, so presumably they are an international  embarrassment as well. Eighteen percent of these boards have no women. In the UK, France, Finland and Italy, every board of a listed company has one woman.

Now, that will almost certainly be because they have rules that make that scenario compulsory. Is that what we want? Compulsion? Quotas? Do we want to go from selecting people based on skills, experience and talent and move to compulsion?

It's sort of like we are with Fairpay Agreements. It doesn’t matter what nine in ten people in a sector want, the one in ten rules and wins.

The critical failing here is firstly, who aside from the group in question says it's an embarrassment? Are they seriously suggesting the world is agog and aghast at our board statistics? Could I suggest the world couldn’t care less?

And secondly, in stating percentages, it takes no account of performance. And that is not even mentioning all the companies that are not on the stock exchange.  

Are the board’s good boards, successful boards? You may as well measure boards by height. What percentage of New Zealand boards vs American boards have people above, as opposed to below six foot?

Like work places, performance is what boards are all about - not gender.

And the real trouble with this sort of on-going campaign is that the simple reality is - we live in a highly successful country of broad-based integration, where women can and do whatever they want. We have a myriad of examples, top down, of them doing just that and doing it successfully every single day.

It's not entirely possible that vast swathes of women rightly or wrongly don’t want to be on boards. Who are these women who are missing out? How long is that line? They make the critical error of assumption. They think that being on a board must be the pinnacle of success, a life-long dream.

Well, it isn't. It's just a board.

Is there more satisfaction than running a business, starting a business, working for yourself, working for a salary, working flexible hours compared to not working?

A board position is but one creative outlet and these groups have taken it. They have blown its relevance out of all proportion, and decided to toss a good gender bent into the debate - creating what they term an "international embarrassment".

It is nothing of the sort. Stop putting women down and making them feel bad.

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