NZ has an abysmally low number of women in senior business positions – how does tourism compare?

Only 18% of senior executive positions at New Zealand companies are held by women this year.

New Zealand is among the worst performing countries for the number of women in senior leadership positions at companies, according to consultancy Grant Thornton International’s latest Women in Business report.

The annual report released today – International Women’s Day – showed only 20% of senior executive positions such as chief executive, managing director, chairperson and other senior decision-makers were held by women in New Zealand last year.

That ranks the country 33 out of the 35 nations surveyed and compares to a global average of 25% in 2017.

Worryingly, the figure for New Zealand has already fallen to 18% this year, which is a significant drop from the 30% reported in the very first Women in Business survey in 2004.

So, how do New Zealand’s largest tourism businesses compare?

A Tourism Ticker survey of the country’s 14 biggest operators – including Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports – showed 30 of the 104 chief executive and boardroom positions were held by women, or 29%.

Karen Crabb

At boardroom level only, the proportion increased to 33%, reflecting a dearth of women in chief executive roles with only the recently appointed Karen Crabb at Rainbow’s End in place.

Only three women were at the very top of their operations in board chair positions: Prue Flacks at Queenstown Airport, Sarah Smith at Ngāi Tahu Tourism and Catherine Drayton at Christchurch Airport.

Tourism Holdings Limited was the only company with more women than men on its board – 4 out of 6 – followed by Auckland Airport with 4 out of 8.

Below chief executive and boardroom level, women accounted for 33 senior management positions out of 114, or 29% again.

Overall then, women accounted for 29% of senior management, chief executive and boardroom positions at the country’s largest tourism operations.

That compares favourably to the current overall New Zealand proportion of 18% but is still below the 30% reported by Grant Thornton in 2004. And, at chief executive and board chair level, women accounted for just four of the 28 positions, or 14%.

Grant Thornton said the number of New Zealand businesses with no women in senior management roles jumped to 56% this year from 37% in 2017. Of the 14 operators surveyed, just one had a male-only boardroom and there were no male-only senior management teams.

Stacey Davies, a partner at Grant Thornton New Zealand, said: “In 2015 when the proportion of women in senior management roles dropped significantly from 31% to 19%, we hoped this was a ‘blip’ and we would see positive change in the coming years. We now have a four year average of 19% which suggests this is our new norm, and it’s really not good enough.

“There is compelling evidence of the link between gender diversity in leadership and commercial success. The current volatility in the global economy and ongoing technological innovation and disruption makes the issue more important than ever.”

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