11 Aug 2015

Lack of diversity on NZ boards challenged

6:03 pm on 11 August 2015

The lack of diversity on New Zealand's boards is deterring investors and having a negative impact on bottom-line profits, according to the Institute of Directors.

No caption

Photo: 123rf.com

Simon Arcus - the newly appointed chief executive of the institute - said improving the diversity of New Zealand's boards was one of his priorities.

But he admitted it could be a few more years before the so-called old guard steps aside to make room for a younger and more diverse group, anxiously waiting in the wings for a seat on a board.

He said the lack of board diversity was preventing some large institutional investors from taking an interest in New Zealand companies.

Mr Arcus said he would like to see New Zealand meet international standards, but it would require some boards to actively recognise unconscious bias.

"Are we at the board table picking people that just look like ourselves, because we feel comfortable, or are we challenging some of those natural tendencies we might have?"

While some boards have increased the diversity of members, he said there were a number of boards with older directors who were not stepping down to make room for younger people wanting to take a seat.

Mr Arcus said the lack of turnover had resulted in a degree of impatience - particularly from large institutional investors, such as Blackrock - which linked diversity to increased profitability.

"They are only interested in investing in companies that demonstrate diversity at the board table and so there is a pretty clear message from a very large institutional investor that it matters."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs