New Zealand May Force Private Companies to Pick Women Directors

(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand’s government is prepared to force private businesses to appoint more women directors if companies don’t make sufficient progress themselves, Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter says.

The government said last week that it will ensure half of all directors on state sector boards and committees are women by 2021, compared with 46 percent at the end of 2017. By comparison, women held just 19 percent of directorships across the 159 companies listed on the main board of the New Zealand stock exchange, according to a report in January.

“We’re awaiting the next report, and I’m keen to see where they get to,” Genter told Television New Zealand’s Q+A program Sunday. “If they’re not going to make progress, if it’s going to sit there at 19 percent, then we might have to start thinking about ways government can incentivize them.”

Under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest female leader, the government is forging ahead with plans to change the way women are treated in society and allow them to achieve their full potential, including an ambitious goal to eliminate the gender pay gap.

Genter said a range of tools are potentially available to the government to “incentivize” private businesses to change, including imposing quotas.

“The evidence is mixed on how successful that is,” she said. “Quotas in some places have been successful, but they also can have perverse consequences. So what I would say is let’s start by putting up the challenge.”

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