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Why I’m a male champion for change

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Following John Key’s shock resignation in December for family reasons, New Zealand has a new Prime Minister and, for the second time in this country, a female Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett.

At the same time as these events were unfolding, a survey was asking New Zealanders and Australians for their experiences and views of gender diversity at work.

The results show we’re doing better than our neighbour over the Tasman at working towards equal pay, flexible working options and career advancement for women.

Compared to their Australian counterparts, women working in New Zealand are also 11% more likely to have received a promotion in the last 12 months, 14% more likely to have the opportunity in their current role to promote themselves and their ambitions and 12% more likely to think that equal career opportunities are open to them.

While this may suggest we’re making strong progress towards gender diversity at all levels in the workplace, we are in fact still far from achieving real equality.

The same survey shows we’re falling behind in two key areas: 84% of New Zealand respondents said the most senior person in their organisation was male (higher than Australia’s 80%), while 65% said their line manager was male (also higher than Australia’s 61%).

Several people have recently asked why I’m one of New Zealand’s Champions for Change. Statistics like this are just one reason.

Another is my belief that diversity in all things can only be good and should be embraced for the success of your organisation, to build your own talent and to get more diverse ideas within your organisation.

My upbringing also led to the formation of values that made it natural for me to support gender diversity. I grew up with a strong role model in my mother, so I understand the commitment, motivation and hard work a woman will make in order to achieve goals, whether that’s to become an executive or provide for a family.

In fact, there’s an intrinsic work ethic in women that I’m sometimes envious of.

As a Champion for Change, I’m passionate about ensuring my own organisation provides equal opportunities for women to advance and that our female employees have strong female leaders to look up to.

Women form a large part of our New Zealand management team and the tier below. That’s not because we’ve purposely selected women to promote; they’ve come through the ranks on the back of their performance in an environment where they have equal opportunity to compete with men. We have a very robust promotion and appraisal process in place that looks past gender and focuses solely on merit.

I also support the idea that male employees should be offered parental leave and flexible working options equally to female employees. If the opportunity is there, without fear of judgement, then I believe that many men today would take paternity leave and/or work flexibly.

What’s interesting is that we’re seeing more men in New Zealand taking time off work to look after children because their partner’s career is stronger. Three of my friends are part-time stay at home dads choosing to support their wives’ thriving careers. Clearly the outdated ‘stigma’ attached to being a stay at home Dad is reducing, with many now preferring the option.

While it’s pleasing to see change, there’s still a lot that needs to be done to improve female representation at all levels in the workplace. The challenge then – for employers on both sides of the Tasman – is to decide the best path ahead to #BeBoldForChange.

#BeBoldForChange is the International Women’s Day (IWD) theme for 2017. IWD is a worldwide event celebrating women's achievements and calling for gender equality. This year, #IWD2017 highlights the need for all of us to step up to take bold action to drive change for women.

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