Inbox: Letter to the editor

Sometimes déjà vu is sinking feeling. Reading Anne Fitzpatrick’s article (“The rise and fall of our top women”, NZ Management August 2011) on the decline in numbers of women applying for and being appointed to CE positions in the public sector, I was reminded of survey I did nearly 30 years ago in Radio New Zealand. We wanted to know why women were not applying for jobs as commercial radio station managers. Simply, they told us the game was not worth the candle.
They were competent, intelligent, savvy women – making fully reasoned decisions based on their perception of the role.
It seems from the SSC research (2009) quoted by Anne Fitzpatrick that senior women managers in the public service may be telling us the same thing.
I note that since the article was written three more women have been appointed – two to CE roles and one to an equivalent sized deputy role – but two are from outside New Zealand, which I suspect does not negate the argument.
We need to put the possibility that qualified senior women are sending the message through their non-application together with couple of other things: one, Anne Fitzpatrick’s well-sourced research on the proven value of having women in such roles; and two, some earlier essays which compare women in corporate life to the canaries that used to warn of toxic gases in mines. (When the Canary Stops Singing ed Pat Barrentine, 1993).
So, given the research on corporate performance being improved by having at least 30 percent women in top jobs, and assuming that the reduction in the numbers of women applying is telling us something about their perception of the role of public sector CEs, then we need to be looking at something more fundamental than the strategies Anne Fitzpatrick’s respondents proposed.
Have “we” (the collective ‘we’ of public, politicians and pundits) made those jobs just too fraught? Are we relying on the people holding them to have their public-service ethos outweigh their 3-o’clock wakies? Is it actually toxic environment?
Thirty years ago, we asked ourselves “if the jobs are not fit for qualified women, why should we expect men to do them?” Then there was another political change, and the need to respond, and … business went on as usual.
I hope that, this time, the State Services Commissioner, the Minister, and the incumbent CEs, are having serious look at the fundamentals of those roles. “We” need the brightest and best choosing to apply – sans gas-masks!– Carolyn Lane

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window