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Launch of Champions for Change

Media release
18 November 2015

Anthony Healy, CEO, BNZ - Presented at the launch of Champions for Change, 17 November, 2015, Auckland, New Zealand

Good morning and let me add my thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this morning.

Also, to thank the Honourable Bill English for agreeing to take time out of his busy schedule to join us and to my co-Chair, Dame Jenny Shipley, who has been, and continues to be, a very strong advocate for the sort of issues that have brought us here today.

Since we met in April we have focussed on better understanding the domestic environment, quantifying the challenge we are confronting and looking at how other countries have addressed the same issues.

This has provided us with a lot of data but also highlighted the gaps that exist –not just in our knowledge but globally.

Our approach with the Champions for Change initiative will be to set the goal of increased diversity and inclusive leadership in New Zealand by 2020.

This will include fostering transparency and accountability by agreeing to publicly report progress towards this objective on an annual basis.

The question of gender equity and the positive outcomes that can be achieved by addressing it, are relatively well known.

Let me start with a truly enormous number that tells you all you need to know about why diversity, or in this case gender equity, matters.

According to McKinsey in a study they released just recently, if women play an identical role to men across all labour markets internationally, that alone would provide an additional 28 trillion dollars in global GDP by 2025.

Looking at this from a purely New Zealand perspective Goldman Sachs has predicted that our GDP would increase by 10 percent if we were to close the gap between men and women in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors.

10 percent seems modest by the McKinsey standard but, in fact, would be a significant achievement –and as you will hear later it is certainly a milestone that we can deliver.

Gender is just one aspect of our drive to achieve balanced diversity in the workplace in New Zealand.

Even though the evidence is staring us in the face that New Zealand needs initiatives such as Champions for Change, there is a lot to be done to merely generate awareness and appreciation of the depth of the problem and the size of the opportunity.

With the release of the Superdiversity research and the learnings from the DiverseNZ project, that the wider matters of diversity cannot be ignored if we are to successfully leverage our diverse talented workforce here in New Zealand and see any of the gains mooted by McKinsey or Goldman Sachs.

The report on New Zealand’s Superdiversity contains numerous and insightful findings. Perhaps most notably the very telling point is that this is not same country we grew up in and that the New Zealand of tomorrow will be markedly different again.

BNZ is proud to be associated with the Superdiversity Stocktake, authored and advocated by our own Board member Mai Chen; and we’ll be convening, on the 24th of November, a senior group of HR practitioners from around New Zealand, to discuss the opportunities and implications the stocktake has put in front of us.

The research data and that of other studies conducted by Statistics New Zealand shows us clearly that there has been a very dramatic shift in the diversity of our customers, our employees and more broadly with all of our stakeholders.

New Zealand now has over 200 ethnic groups living here and making themselves visible – this is a lot of change in a short period of time for 4.6 million people.

Statistics NZ tells us that New Zealand's Asian population is set to overtake the Maori population by 2038. Some business leaders may have begun to make changes in their organisations that reflect such shifts but the Superdiversity report is perhaps the first time that we have seen this information set out so starkly and so compellingly.

Now we need to look harder at our own businesses to see how they are responding to such changes – or whether in fact they are responding to it at all.

To quote from the report’s summary:

"Business and Government need to be quicker off the mark to seize on the opportunities from Superdiversity and to capitalise on them for the benefit of New Zealand’s economy. There can be no business as usual as the talent pool, customers and citizens have changed.

"Most of the benefits from Superdiversity, such as greater innovation, productivity and investment, increase New Zealand’s financial capital whereas most of its challenges adversely impact New Zealand’s social capital."

The Superdiversity study reinforces the need for better data on ethnic representation in business, particularly in light of the level of migration that has occurred in the last five years.

To quote again from the report 'The status quo, where New Zealand European staffed businesses service New Zealand European customers is unsustainable given New Zealand’s ongoing demographic disruption.'

There are many calls to action within the Superdiversity report and the business community will take time to digest and act on them. In that respect the Champions for Change initiative has arrived at precisely the right time with its clearly stated intention to translate the benefits of that broad diversity in the community into the realm of business.

The question of gender balance and equity in the workplace has been in the public eye for some time and, as you saw a moment ago, the business case for correcting the imbalance is now irrefutable. 

The troubling news though is that New Zealand has not made the progress that it should have.

There has been little improvement in the numbers of women or, we believe, in the balance of ethnicity in senior leadership roles. Nor has there been any notable shift in bringing about pay equity.

The latest data from the Human Rights Commission, published earlier this year, should give us considerable concern. Instead of progressively increasing, the presence of women in senior management positions in the private sector has reduced substantially in the last four years. In 2011 women comprised roughly a third of all senior management positions in the private sector and yet now, in 2015, they make up only a fifth. This is not just counter-intuitive – it is deeply worrying.

The picture is no rosier when you look at women in Chief Executive and Governance roles.

Private sector boards comprise over 85% males. Women in senior management roles in the private sector amount to only 19% of the workforce. The situation in the public sector, it must be said, is somewhat healthier with women taking 42% of senior management positions.

There are some deeply held conscious and unconscious biases behind this. Hay Management has recently published the results of its survey into the advancement of women in the workplace and while they conclude that progress is being made they also say that this remains a business critical issue.

In its New Zealand section the report highlights that men and women have markedly differing views of whether there is gender equity within their organisations with men, perhaps not surprisingly, seeing it as being far less of an issue than women. 

Establishing an accurate position on other issues of diversity is work that needs to be done – as it has been for gender.

There is some empirical evidence that ethnicities other than European are significantly under-represented in the workforce but there is a paucity of data available to support that and to quantify what the opportunity for improvement is.

The Human Rights Commission has published some data showing that Maori, Pacific Island and Asian are significantly under-represented in proportion to their numbers in the public service. The same is almost certainly true of the private sector – if not even more so.

I’m conscious that to a very large extent I am preaching to the converted this morning – the real challenge for all of us is to impress on the wider business community the urgency and importance of addressing and reporting on diversity and inclusion in their businesses.

The rewards for improving diversity and inclusion across the board have been well articulated and the dangers of maintaining the status quo have been equally well laid out.

Now it’s time to act.

I want to thank the Champions who are in the room today - they have taken the first step by committing to this.

I know you share our concerns and aspirations and are committed to tangible actions.

So here’s what I ask of you:

First: each of us needs to commit to taking action inside our own organisations to break down barriers; increase diverse leadership; and build on the learnings of respective organisations and best practice.

Second: we must be strong advocates and spokespeople for change.

Third: we must leverage each other’s ideas and learnings because joint solutions are
stronger ones.

And finally: all the best practice in the world won’t mean anything unless we deliver tangible outcomes. So we need to commit to what these outcomes look like and be determined and relentless about getting there.

Once we’re clear on this, our goal is to publicly report progress against these outcomes – to hold ourselves and each other accountable to the commitments we’ve made.

I urge us to work together on this because it matters. Not just for us here and now, but for our families, our children, and our workplaces – it matters to the future of New Zealand.