NZ's “high appetite” for diversity praised

Vodafone’s global HR boss is impressed with Kiwis' approach to D&I, despite disappointing stats

NZ's “high appetite” for diversity praised
Zealand leaders may like to think of themselves as progressive when it comes to workplace diversity but businesses still have a long way to go before achieving true equality – as a recent report from NZX proves.

The report shows that publicly listed companies have made barely noticeable headway in terms of rolling out diversity policies and getting more women onto their boards since 2015.

Two years ago, there were 119 women on the boards of publicly listed companies, compared to 580 men. Now, there are 120 women on boards compared to 556 men.

Somewhat more worryingly, just 47 per cent of listed firms said they have a diversity policy in 2017 – a decrease of one per cent from 2015.

While the figures are inarguably disappointing, the global HR head of Vodafone – one of the world’s pioneers in workplace diversity – says she’s actually impressed with New Zealand’s approach.

“The impression I have is that the appetite from organisations in New Zealand is really high and there’s a real desire and interest to engage on the topic of diversity,” says Karina Govindji, group head of diversity and inclusion for the communications giant.

Govindji – who is responsible for creating and overseeing diversity initiatives across Vodafone’s 130,000 employees – says she thinks the lack of improvement doesn’t stem from a disinterest but rather delays in following through with initiatives.

“The real challenge is that the focus seems to be quite skewed on demonstrating a business case for why diversity matters and the emphasis is on that, rather than taking action,” she told HRD.

“The pace of follow through is slowed down because leaders are too heavily focused on proving the business case where they should be focussing on a number of actions, seeing the benefit of those then building on them.”

Vodafone has been widely praised for its innovative diversity policies including its pledge to bring 1,000 women who have taken career breaks back into the workplace. In 2015, the company also announced a global maternity policy which offers at least 16 weeks paid leave to employees, regardless of their location.

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