Governance vs CEOs

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

Not one – not even one – of the bosses of the top 50 listed companies on the NZX are women.

That’s one of the standout takeouts of the Herald’s CEO pay survey released this week.

It needs to change.

Dig a bit deeper and there are some shining female lights at the top of NZ business.

The problem is most of them are in governance roles. Sue Sheldon, Dame Jenny Shipley and Joan Withers are household names. Talk to young women and many offer up an ambition to go straight “into governance”.


I’m not sure that is a problem. I love governance roles. You get removed from day to day issues to focus more on the strategy, the environment and the risks. You can get a high level of impact, for less time than in an executive role. And the flexible timing of governance duties is I am sure especially appealing to many women.

But that’s not where the real drive in business comes from.

We want our boards to be stacked with people who know enough to usefully challenge the status quo , whose antennae are sharp enough to sniff out managed earnings rorts and understand markets.

Experience in top corporate positions teaches some of that.

But the ability to shape a business comes from being in the chief executive’s seat. That’s where the dynamism is created and the future is shaped.

I agree the experience from corporate management is very valuable, and directors with corporate management are valued.

But for many Kiwi women the game is not necessarily climbing the corporate ladder.

Wendy Pye, Erica Crawford and Diane Foreman are all self-made millionaires who have created major international businesses from New Zealand.

Ask for their pay packet and you will be rewarded with a snort. “That’s my business.”

Yep, nothing like owning your own business!

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