Opinion: What do a Singaporean property development company and Hong Kong bank have in common?

Something that very few New Zealand businesses have.

Last week, the results from a report that analysed more than 1000 publicly-listed companies across the Asia-Pacific region on 19 gender equality criteria was released.

New Zealand corporates came off looking shabby.

The overall top performers are an Australian property development company, a Singaporean one too, the Hang Seng Bank and a Japanese pharmaceutical giant.

Luckily, New Zealand saved some face by having Xero in the best company list.

To get on the best list, companies had to have achieved gender balance in their leadership layers, publicly disclosed their gender pay gaps and have a strategy to address them, offered generous paid parental level schemes, have anti-sexual harassment policies, and offer flexible work.

These are sophisticated corporates with share prices to manage. I can’t see any evidence their drive for gender equality is a touchy feely, nice thing to do. Getting the best talent and paying fairly is about business success.

But then we come to the New Zealand section. Seems like we didn’t get that memo.

The good news is that compared with our Asia-Pacific neighbours, we do well in women’s representation on boards and throughout the workforce.

Not so well at chief executive level though. The report notes there are more CEOs called David (four) than female CEOs (one). Just 6 percent of New Zealand listed companies have a female CEO.

While we may have women in decision-making roles, the report concludes we do not have the legislation and policy protections for them that other nations do. Especially noted was the absence of mandatory pay gap reporting.

Our overall gender equality score is lower than Australia (#embarrassing).

This is because so few New Zealand companies publish pay gap data, and only 18 percent have published a statement about how they intend to address their gender pay gaps.

Some 78 percent of New Zealand companies do not publish an anti-sexual harassment policy (lowest score in Asia-Pacific other than Hong Kong).

We are also cheap on our paid parental leave, with only 8 percent of New Zealand companies offering what the study considers the minimum standard. And tardy on disclosing our policies on human rights and supply chain management.

The report notes (more politely than I am paraphrasing here) that while we have one of the most gender-balanced parliaments in the world, a female Prime Minister and talk a lot about championing gender equity, we are actually a bit crap.

Our large corporates do not stack up, and our policy and legislative framework lags.

Nothing like being called out on the global stage.

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