Champions for Change Progress remains steady despite another challenging year with Covid

Our Champions for Change have just today released this year’s Diversity & Inclusion Impact Report. Now in its fourth annual release, the 2021 report holds a mirror up to their progress of a collective goal in reaching a 40/40/20 gender balance across all levels of their organisations. This year it shows that they’re still outpacing the diversity of the NZX50 companies — but focus is still needed to reach the big picture goals.

Champions for Change are a collective of New Zealand’s top CEOs and Chairs across the nation who are united by one thing: a shared vision of an equitable and prosperous Aotearoa New Zealand, spurred by diverse and inclusive leadership.

Underpinning this goal is achieving a 40:40:20 gender balance across their workforces. This refers to workplaces where there is a minimum of 40% women, 40% men across all levels — with the remaining 20% being made up of men, women and gender diverse peoples.

To stay accountable for improving both gender and enthic diversity, our Champions for Change have commissioned this report to monitor their progress on an individual level as well as a collective. In the midst of a year full of turbulent twists and turns, our Champions remain committed to accountability and reflection. Here are some of the key outtakes:

As with 2020, the Champions are very close to 40% representation at Board, Senior Manager and Other Manager levels this year. However, this has been the case for a number of years now and the 40% mark is proving a stubborn threshold to break. It’s taking longer to increase diversity in the roles of Key Management Personnel and Other Executives/General Managers.

Promisingly, of our champions who have been involved in all four annual reports, we can see that there have been more women represented in the following categories: Board, Key Management Personnel, Other Executives/General Managers, Senior Managers. Additionally, the roles of Other Executives/General Managers have also increased, while Board and Senior Managers who originally started below the 40% minimum threshold are now in gender balance at the aggregate level. As Champions for Change Co-Chair Justine Smyth reflected, “Champions for Change are ahead of our comparators on gender balance across a number of markers but acknowledge our progress, while steady, can still be improved on.

“Champions for Change are ahead of our comparators on gender balance across a number of markers but acknowledge our progress, while steady, can still be improved on” — Justine Smyth, Champions for Change Co-Chair.

Both participation and power gaps were also looked at again this year. A participation gap can be said to exist in industries and organisations where women make up less than 40% of the overall workforce, while a power gap exists in industries and organisations where there is a substantial difference between the proportion of women in junior roles and those in more senior roles. For our Champions for Change, reflecting and reporting on these gaps mirrors their view that it’s not enough for women to be merely represented: they must have an equitable share of voice, contribution to decision-making and leadership.

Progress is steady, yet at a slower pace this year. 2021 saw no shortage of twists and turns thanks to Covid — and this was also reflected in the report. As Justine Smyth shares, “Some organisations have made significant change while others have found it more challenging, particularly amidst the backdrop of nearly two years operating in a Covid world.

This, plus the fact that much of the ‘low hanging fruit’ in our champion’s diversity and inclusion progress has already been picked paired is said to be behind the slowing down of our champion’s momentum on paper. “With many organisations now five or ten years into their Diversity & Inclusion work, we are also noticing that the rate of change is understandably starting to decrease,” says Justine Smyth, who continues: “while Covid may have slowed the progress of some, we cannot let it allow us to divert our focus away from making more Aotearoa more inclusive and equitable.

“Some organisations have made significant change while others have found it more challenging, particularly amidst the backdrop of nearly two years operating in a Covid world,” — Justine Smyth, Champions for Change Co-Chair.

In light of this and the complex operating environment Covid has created, our 2021 report includes learnings and insights from some of our Champions, sharing what is working for them and equally the areas that given the chance, they would approach differently in future. We hope that by publishing these stories and openly acknowledging the challenges together, there will be lessons that can not only help propel the Champions, but indeed all of Aotearoa.

>>> Read and download full report here <<<

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