IoD Chartered Members are forward thinking

type
Article
author
By Institute of Directors
date
9 Jun 2022
read time
2 min to read
Jim Mather

Pushing for equity reinforces the spirit of partnership 

The importance of inclusion, cultural diversity and New Zealand’s commitment to biculturalism is at the forefront of thinking across government agencies, organisations and businesses at large.

And from a governance perspective, it is crucial for boards to not only consider diversity but to implement it, ensuring Aotearoa is an equitable place for all people.

But how should boards look to build biculturalism and diversity with a view to providing equal opportunity?

Setting quotas in order to achieve diversity targets is not the best way forward according to Dr Jim Mather (CMInstD) who believes it could set the tone for appointing those with a lower level of skill and expertise.

“However, I am a strong advocate of equitable recruitment principles on the basis that many Māori directors may not have strong traditional governance backgrounds, but have a range of other relevant skills and experiences.”

“It also reinforces the historical and contemporary spirit of partnership embedded in the Treaty, which is much more than a component of diversity and inclusion,”

He says the latter can complement the corporate skill sets likely to be prevalent on most boards. Dr Mather is a strategic Māori development consultant and professional director based in Auckland. He currently sits on several boards, including Chair of RNZ, Lake District Health Board, Ako Mātātupu and Inzone Education Foundation.

He believes appointing Māori directors to boards reflects progressive and dynamic governance.

“It also reinforces the historical and contemporary spirit of partnership embedded in the Treaty, which is much more than a component of diversity and inclusion,” he says.

With Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, along with Māori perspectives and a burgeoning Māori economy, having Māori directors on boards ensures there are people with cultural capability, lived experiences and existing networks to strengthen overall board effectiveness.

He adds, boards wanting to increase the number of Māori directors should do so by setting very clear intentions regarding the specific skills and attributes they are looking for.

The benefits of a culturally rich board, is firstly, the diversity of perspectives and insights on governance issues. But Dr Mather has also seen improved connectedness to sections of their communities and customers who might not have previously been considered in governance decision-making.

He says, another positive is that board diversity also highlights to staff and stakeholders that the organisation is reflective of wider society.

But if building cultural diversity isn’t a priority for your board you could be missing out on diversity of thought and perspectives, as well as the robustness of well informed decisions, according to Mather.

“I often use an analogy of half the board being chauffeur driven to a board meeting and the other half having to walk there on a searing hot day.”

Over the years, he has seen organisational change through his role on boards as a result of pushing for greater equity.

“I often use an analogy of half the board being chauffeur-driven to a board meeting and the other half having to walk there on a searing hot day.”

He says it is logical for the available jugs of water to be reallocated to the board members who walked to the meeting, and that naturally, this would place everyone in a position to contribute equally and effectively.

“This analogy recognises that we need to be prepared to ‘unequally’ redistribute resources and support to achieve equitable outcomes. Boards need everyone at the starting line together, primed and ready to perform". 


Jim Mather CMInstD facilitates our Kotahitanga – Principles of Māori Governance course and is also part of our new Advanced Directors’ Course facilitator panel.

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