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April 9, 2018 | by  | in Politics |
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The Party Line

Greens MP and Minister for Women Hon Julie Anne Genter recently came under fire for her comments about “old white men” needing to move on from board positions to make way for younger, more diverse talent. Is there truth to this statement? What is the best way to approach diversity and representation around decision-making?

VicNats

One of our National MPs put to me recently that it’s about a hand up, not a hand out. That’s when real, sustainable social change will happen. I’d be pretty appalled if I was promoted to a role because some “old white man” (as Julie-Anne so eloquently put it) stepped aside and gave it to me. I have more self-respect than to consider that a success or a ‘win for women’.

The focus has to be on the system itself rather than on superficial ‘hand-outs’ – we need to empower women throughout their careers so they’re in the best possible position to secure those top jobs for themselves.

Genter’s heart is in the right place, but her choice of words were insensitive, unhelpful, and certainly not becoming of a Minister.

Perhaps next time she should be asking why Jacinda Ardern’s Cabinet is only one-third women. That’s arguably more of a concern than any company board.

-Kathleen Williams

ACT on Campus

Whilst Young ACT is in agreement with the Greens on most social policy, I find Julie Anne Genter’s comments despicable. Diversity is fantastic for representation and that is why ACT strongly supports equality of opportunity at the core of everything. We support positions being chosen on merit rather than on race or gender. Her comments could be described as sexist, ageist and racist. I think it is important that we encourage diversity and equality of opportunity but this can be done without targeting a specific gender, race and age. The best way to approach diversity around decision making is giving everyone a fair go and choosing roles on merit rather than quotas. The ACT party applied this system when choosing the party list for the last election and we ended up with a diverse group of talent young and old with a 50-50 gender balance and we didn’t require quotas. These comments made by Julie Anne Genter only encourage segregation. Diversity and representation will be achieved when we treat everyone with the same respect and dignity regardless of race, gender or age.

-James Allan

Young Greens

The Minister was spot on with her comments that old white men in boards need to move on.

I can hear your racist dad reading this right now and screaming “THEY SHOULD BE CHOSEN BY MERIT” okay Grant, sit down. By Grant’s own silly little logic, all boards as they currently stand are being chosen by merit alone. That’s simply not the case. We know that women, people of colour, those with disabilities and those that belong to other minority groups have a lot to offer, not just with their skill sets and knowledge, but with their lived experience and insight. But they’re still not being chosen. When 84% of NZ’s board members, and 82% of the country’s senior management teams are men, the argument about them being chosen by merit is ignorance at best and discrimination at worst.

The idea that boards should be elected by merit is one that ironically serves in the best interests of businesses. A 2017 Westpac report says that gender balance in management roles could boost New Zealand’s economy by nearly NZ$1bn. At this point, it’s just plain common sense.

Crusty old white men that are well past their expiry date need to be shown the door. Younger and more diverse board members would have much more to offer. But don’t listen to me, let your ears bleed by listening to Don Brash and you’ll arrive at the same conclusion. New Zealand companies need to cut the racism, cut the sexism, and do better.

-Max Tweedie

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