Coddington on tokenism

November 14th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

writes in the HoS:

And what this census doesn’t reveal is how many turn down requests to sit on boards as company directors.

Maybe they are smarter than men, and don’t wish to expose themselves, under the Companies Act 1993, to the legal and reputation risks when a corporate curdles from the heat and shareholders cast around for someone to blame.

Feminism, to a liberal, is not equality of numbers just to please the Human Rights Commission.

Equality is about freedom of choice. So long as women can choose to be directors of public companies, or run their own successful companies – such as Trilogy – or even eschew the red-tape hassles, Inland Revenue nightmares, staffing problems and opt to be an employee, then we shouldn’t fret.

I partially agree with Deborah, but not totally.

First of all I should state that I’ve served under four different board chairs on two different boards which I am or was a non-executive director or. All four Chairs were female, and I’ve actually learnt a lot about governance from them.

Directorships are not quite like other jobs. While some companies do undertake a public recruitment process for directors, other do operate very much on an invitation basis, and it comes down to whom the existing directors know.

So I don’t think the lack of women on commercial boards is just because women want to avoid the liability that comes with directorships. I think the “old boys” network is an issue. But I also note that more and more women are undertaking IOD company director courses.

And is there anything to suggest women on their boards would improve things? Might just as well put blow-up dolls around the board table.

I’m adamantly against any quotas, but boards work well if they have a diversity of experience and knowledge. And it is a fact of life that overall women and men respond differently to various stuff. You often have different marketing strategies for female and male customers. So having no women on your board, may mean a valuable perspective is lost.

But I do agree with Deborah that often part of the problem is women not putting themselves forward. In the political realm, some groups complain that women only make up around 35% of Parliament.

But I don’t think that this is because NZers are reluctant to vote for women. I think it is because relatively fewer women seek political office.

It would be interesting to see some stats on what percentage of nominees (those seeking candidacy) in the major parties are women, what percentage of candidates are women, and compare that to the percentage of MPs that are women. This would help ascertain whether the under-representation is because women do not seek nomination, or because they do not gain a candidacy or whether they do not get elected.

I’ve done a quick analysis of the 2008 election. In the 70 electorate contests, I’ve looked at the genders of the winner and runner up. In 34 seats they were both male. In just five they were both female. Of the 31 seats where they were of different genders, 17 had the male candidate win and 14 the female candidate.

Tags: ,

13 Responses to “Coddington on tokenism”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Two thoughts about this – first, I thought that boards of directors were appointed by the shareholders, in which case they shouldn’t be operating either by an invitation or a recruitment process, rather by election. Mind you, if there was due diligence in the recruitment process perhaps certain former politicians wouldn’t be appointed to cushy SOE directorships.
    Also, if they make a quota they risk forcing lesser candidates into the job just to make up numbers and as a result the governance of the company will suffer.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. David Farrar (1,900 comments) says:

    In theory they are appointed by shareholders. In reality for most boards the current directors invite smeone and recommend them to the shareholders which are backed 99% of the time.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. Jimbob (641 comments) says:

    A few more Women on boards of public companies would soften the arrogant demeanor of some directors. Some of these companies PR is atrocious in reference to some directors, and accountability just as bad.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Jimbob, I highly doubt it. Women at that level are just as bad if not worse than men, because they feel they have something to prove. Just look at Helen Clark.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Jimbob (641 comments) says:

    I didn’t know Helen Clark was a company director.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    But I don’t think that this is because NZers are reluctant to vote for women. I think it is because relatively fewer women seek political office.

    It would be interesting to see some stats on what percentage of nominees (those seeking candidacy) in the major parties are women

    When I was working at the Electoral Commission, we got a few telephone queries about how to start political parties. These are sometimes just individuals with an idea, not groups, I never took a call from a woman asking this question, and 90+% of the questions over an extended time across the whole organisation, were from men.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    Jimbob you are a dick or you’re being a dick. Helen Clark is one of those “high powered” women and I certainly wouldn’t work for her even if I agreed with her politics. It is my opinion that many women in business are the same, and their presence on boards wouldn’t “soften the arrogant demeanor”.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. F E Smith (3,307 comments) says:

    Surely the question should be one that is left solely to the shareholders and the directors? After all, they are the ones that own the company, and the directors are the ones that run the company. So long as it is not a government owned business, where is the problem? How large a company should be required to have a quota? All, or just big ones?

    And, while we are at it, allow me to go down the reactionary route: what about quotas for all jobs? Why should women be allowed to choose their occupations when we can force businesses to recruit them or be fined? I look forward to the day when women make up 50% of rubbish collectors, 50% of miners, 50% of fisherpersons (!), 50% of the Police, 50% of the Armed Services and so forth. Comply or be fined, I say!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. CharlieBrown (1,026 comments) says:

    It is a fact, that generally, men and women have different career desires. That explains the sex makeup of nurses, teachers, farmers and business directors. Any quota that gets brought in would be sexist. As long as the best person for the job gets offered it then what is the big deal?

    The current pc bullshit we have wastes peoples time. My 30 something year old sister applied for a promotions job recently, she was given an interview, only to find out by reading between the lines at the job interview that they wanted attractive 18 to early 20’s year olds walking around in bikinis. If they were allowed to be honest from the beginning she wouldn’t have wasted her time.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. gazzmaniac (2,307 comments) says:

    FS Smith – women already make up a good proportion of mine workers in Australia. Mine operaters like to use them because they tend to be less rough on machinery than men.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. CharlieBrown (1,026 comments) says:

    Governments having quotas is sexist in itself. Consider the following scenario, 99 men apply for a position and 1 women does, the 99 men are better suited for the position but the female gets the job so the department can make the quota. I know that is an extreme scenario, but employment quotas in themselves cause sex to be a criteria in getting a job – which is actually against some of our human rights laws I think.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote