Ethnic women are doubly disadvantaged – activist

While the number of women in leadership roles in businesses is very low in New Zealand, many women face further disadvantage if they are from a minority group, says a women’s rights advocate.

The number of females at board level of NZSX top 100 companies is just over 9%, according to a report by Goldman Sachs & Partners (August 2011). Only 4% of these companies had a female chief executive. New Zealand falls behind Australia, the UK, the US and a number of European countries on these benchmarks, the report adds.

“The New Zealand employment statistics show that if they are also Māori, Pasifika or from minority ethnic groups, or have a disability, they are doubly disadvantaged, particularly in areas such as low pay and pay equity,” says Rae Julian, National President, UN Women National Committee for New Zealand.

“Women still experience discrimination in employment practice in terms of basic issues such as occupational segregation, representation in senior management, in governance positions and in terms of law pay and pay equity.”

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been targeting getting more women onto private sector boards for some years. The UN Women NZ National Committee, along with the NZ Federation of Business and Professional Women and Dr Judy McGregor, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, is taking a different tack.

“Our campaign is based on the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). We aim to show the companies that have not already embraced the Principles that their businesses will be enhanced through employing more women at all levels and in all sectors of their organisation.

“Empowering women builds strong economies and establishes more stable and just societies.

“Many organisations will point to the high percentage of women employed in their businesses. Closer analysis often shows that the women are largely confined to clerical, administrative, support or human resources roles.

More than 6000 participating enterprises and businesses in more than 135 countries including Australia and South Africa have already signed up to the WEPs.

“It is time for New Zealand to join the campaign.”

New Zealand’s Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, and Lady Janine Mateparae, will launch the Principles to the business community at Government House in Wellington in early February.

The seven Women’s Empowerment Principles:

Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality

Treat all women and men fairly at work − respect and support human rights and non-discrimination

Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers

Promote education, training and professional development for women

Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women

Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

New Zealand CEOs are being asked to join their global counterparts in a statement of support and to use the Principles as guidance for actions that can be taken in workplaces.


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