- Title page
- Definition of terms used in this report
- Chapter One: Executive Summary
- Chapter Two: Findings from the quantitative data
- Chapter Three: International literature review
- Chapter Four : Findings from the qualitative data (interviews)
- Appendix 1: Detail of quantitative data
- Appendix Two: Bibliography
- Appendix Three: Individual Public Service department statistics
Chapter Four : Findings from the qualitative data (interviews)
Fourteen Public Service CEs and one State Services CE were interviewed, from a range of sectors and sizes of agency. Fifteen tier 2 and 3 managers were interviewed from a range of agencies and sectors including a mix of male and female, Māori, and Pacific and Asian peoples. The tier 2 and 3 managers who were invited to be interviewed were drawn from the Leadership Development Centre (LDC) database, or were recommended by CEs or SSC Deputy Commissioners and State Sector Performance Specialists. Two executive recruiters were also interviewed.
The interviews were 30 to 60 minutes long and consisted of three broad questions listed below.
· Can you describe any examples of initiatives/policies which promote, and/or are seen as successfully increasing diversity in senior leadership, either in your current organisation or another one?
· What do you see as some of the barriers to becoming a CE, either from your own experience or what you have observed?
Hand notes were taken at each interview and interviewees were given the opportunity to review and amend any text from their interviews which was included in the report. All attempts have been made to ensure that direct quotes are not attributable to individuals and confidentiality maintained.
It should be emphasised that these interviews do not provide quantitative data or necessarily record issues of fact. Their aim is to highlight the perceptions and attitudes of a sample of New Zealand Public Service CEs and senior managers, and to demonstrate the thinking that is likely to be highly influential in determining their behaviour.
No CEs who were approached declined to be interviewed and one CE volunteered to be interviewed. However, several tier 2 and 3 managers who were invited for interview declined to do so giving a range of reasons.
· Some deferred to the human resources manager or a more senior manager than themselves (perhaps misunderstanding that one of the main purposes of the interview was not seeking an organisational perspective but a personal one).
· Some Māori and Pacific managers stated they did not wish to be interviewed as they were "tired of being singled out for such things on the basis of being Māori or Pacific."
· Some female, Māori and Pacific managers stated they did not wish to be seen as 'role models' as they didn't consider themselves as such.
· Some female managers declined, saying they were "jaded and cynical - had heard it all before and nothing changes."
Some CEs and several of the tier 2 and 3 managers chose not to speak so much from their own personal perspective, carefully speaking about the organisation, issues in general or in the third person.
No one interviewed questioned the benefits of diverse representation of women, Māori, Pacific peoples and other ethnicities in the public sector. However, many interviewees, both men and women, expressed concern about diversity progress, particularly at senior management level. In fact, there was a strong perception that gender diversity is getting worse, symbolised by the inclusion of only one woman in 19 CE appointments from November 2004 to June 2009.
Concern about ethnic diversity was stronger. Most interviewees focussed on Māori whose representation in senior management has declined slightly in the last decade. The situation is even worse for Pacific and Asian peoples who each make up around seven percent of the public sector workforce, but less than two percent of senior management.
In line with the literature review, several interviewees stressed the direct relationship between diversity and organisational performance, citing a loss of creativity, talent and understanding in leadership teams without gender and ethnic diversity. One said a senior management team can never reflect the whole of New Zealand so the focus of their agency was to be able to access diverse networks. Another said it is harder to make an argument for positive discrimination in a department that doesn't have a large Māori or Pacific client base, adding that more diversity of perspective leads to richer outcomes and better group dynamics, but would not necessarily make the department more productive.
Several interviewees said a complete culture change is needed to make workplace diversity a reality in the public sector. One expected the situation to get worse as small agencies were merged into larger ones. Another said women will start to fight back, but the situation is so bad for Māori that they may not have the numbers to do so.
A number of women said there was a lot of sexism in the sector, particularly in the Commission and other key 'feeder' agencies. Several had left departments because of inflexible working conditions, lack of encouragement and perceived discrimination. Most said discrimination was usually indirect rather than overt, partly because of the difficulty of proving a direct link with decision-making.
Many women said female characteristics were judged unfairly. Most were reluctant to give specific examples, one expressing the view that "it wouldn't be particularly safe." However, a few spoke of deliberately deciding to feminise or tone down their appearance and style to be seen as less challenging by men.
Racism was another area of concern, mostly but not always covert. One interviewee said the accent of people who speak English as a second language was a barrier to progression, citing "a real lack of support for groups who are not Māori or Pacific that flows through into policy development."
While most CEs were keen to support diversity in principle, some found the reality more challenging. However, a female CE said she could only assume from the lack of progress that people were not thinking hard enough about diversity. "If we really wanted it to be different, it would be."
Lack of leadership from the Commissioner, the Commission and the government was a common complaint. Interviewees also spoke of the need for better role modelling, a planned approach and active management to improve the diversity of the sector. "There is no sense of urgency and commitment," said one CE.
Many interview comments mirrored the findings of the Commission's 2009 research into its processes for the recruitment and appointment of CEs.
There was general agreement that the application process is gruelling and time-consuming. A number of people mentioned the demanding workload, lack of support and loneliness of the CE job. Many referred to its increasing complexity, politicisation and public scrutiny. Several said it is difficult to attract applicants from outside New Zealand because of relatively generous public service pension schemes in other countries.
For some, the pitfalls of the CE role outweigh the rewards. Second tier roles can be meaty and interesting, they said, without the same exposure or risks. However, one female CE questioned whether the myths are accurate, and said anyone wanting to become a CE should talk to those already doing the job "to demystify it."
Another female CE concluded that the barriers are not to do with gender or ethnicity but "personal issues". Many others, however, felt the selection process, and the CE role itself, is weighted against women, Māori, Pacific peoples and other minority groups.
Everyone stressed the importance of appointing on merit. However core criteria (such as being assertive and other 'masculine' qualities) were seen to inadvertently exclude women and minority groups who internalised such barriers and lost confidence in their ability to go for top roles.
A number of interviewees, both men and women, described the current group of CEs as an "old boys' club." Many stressed that CEs are generally supportive and welcoming, and "there is no bad behaviour as such." However, there was a widespread view that the make-up and style of the group, and the focus on financial experience, is too narrow and exclusive.
A number of interviewees said the net for CE applicants should be spread more widely, particularly to people in crown entities and local government. Opinion was divided about the transferability of private sector skills, particularly at the top level. Several people commented on the Australian system of talent management, 'shoulder-tapping' CEs and moving them around. While there was a feeling that this is too directive, one person said "we need some mid-point between that and our laissez-faire approach."
Many of the same issues around diversity arose for senior managers as for CEs, including invisible bias in their recruitment and selection.
Several CEs pointed the finger at recruiters. One said a recruiter had suggested that payment could be withheld until recruiters produce a diverse pool of candidates. Another said, "An open contest that is merit-based will not deliver diversity. Departments need an EEO programme that will reach down and pull those groups [women, Māori and Pacific peoples] through."
A few CEs said they consciously consider the overall mix of their workforce and senior management team, rather than making individual appointments in a vacuum. To be effective, there must be at least two Māori in the team, one said. However, a recruiter said he didn't often hear CEs talk about getting a diversity balance in their senior management teams. "They are focussed on the individual, not the demographics."
Lack of confidence in their ability to be senior managers - believing that it's possible and putting themselves forward - was seen as a barrier for women, Māori, Pacific peoples and other minorities. "When it comes to applying for a future role, women worry about the 25 percent of the job they can't do, men focus on the 75 percent they feel they can do," said one CE.
The location of most senior roles in Wellington, requiring those working in the regions to uproot their families, was also cited as a barrier to progression.
A number of interviewees said Māori and Pacific peoples face an additional burden in terms of the expectations of their communities. Several said talented Māori are being attracted to work for iwi, especially as their asset bases increase. However, others saw this as a convenient excuse for the poor representation of Māori in public sector senior management. Few brought up the representation of other ethnic minorities in senior management except to acknowledge their absence. None spoke of specific initiatives to encourage greater diversity in this area.
Many organisations have generic leadership development and talent management programmes. However, only a few interviewees gave examples of specific initiatives to improve diversity. This does not mean there are none. HR staff sometimes emailed through examples following the interviews but it does suggest that senior managers (including CEs) are not always aware of diversity programmes operating in their own departments.
As in the literature review, people were ambivalent about special treatment for disadvantaged groups. They said quotas risk putting people in positions they're not equipped for and setting them up to fail, while others said special treatment often created resentment and ghettos.
However, one CE said a lot of preliminary work was necessary to get minorities ready for mainstream programmes. Another said a balance of women, Māori and Pacific peoples should be considered for all training opportunities. "You have to be thinking about it all the time."
'Increasing diversity' is one goal of the sector's flagship leadership initiative, the Public Sector Advanced Leadership Programme. A number of interviewees said they had found the programme a good way to expand their networks. However, there was some criticism about its relevance and outcomes. Concern was also expressed about the fairness of selection processes.
Some interviewees, including a CE, did not appear to know about Maranga Tira, the Commission's leadership and mentoring programme for Māori managers. One CE said several staff had found Maranga Tira useful, but several people said it was seen as a "second-class" programme and was not taken seriously.
One person said diversity needs to be explicitly built into the development of talent, "including the barriers to ethnicity." Another said training for all managers should include a component of diversity training.
A number of interviewees considered secondments and acting roles the best way to learn new skills, provide a breadth of experience, and create bridges within and between organisations, at relatively low risk to the person and the organisation. Disappointment was expressed that a number of graduate and internship programmes have been axed.
Most interviewees stressed the importance of mentoring as a way of building confidence and skills. This concurs with the Commission's Career Progression and Development Survey 2005 that showed nearly all public servants who had mentors said it had assisted their career development. It also found that managers, women, Māori and Pacific public servants were most likely to be mentored. Some women referred to the informal support provided by women's networks.
Most interviewees said women, Māori, Pacific people and minorities in senior management are role models, whether they like it or not. A number said strong support from someone higher up had been critical in their own career development.
Several CEs stressed that their agencies' flexible work practices are designed to help all staff manage their family responsibilities.
A number of women (including CEs and some who had children) denied that family responsibilities had been a barrier to their success. One woman who chose to have children before pursuing her career said raising a family develops valuable skills and shouldn't be viewed as a loss. However, another felt the same choice had held her back, while a third made the point that "women choose consultancy rather than going up the ladder as it offers more flexibility."
The location of CE roles and head offices in Wellington was generally seen as a given, because of the need for proximity to Ministers and the political process. An interviewee said that having to relocate to the capital for most senior roles is a barrier. "My family lives here in Auckland; we're a large family and we do a lot together." They didn't mind travelling but "it's the length of time away that is an issue. My [child] comes first." At the same time, a male CE observed that men are more willing to uproot their families to get advancement, while women "won't or can't."
CEs of both sexes said there had to be a balance between flexible work practices and the organisation's performance. A female CE said a business group created a performance problem when they allowed too many people to take part-time work. "You don't want to be making allowances for individual's lives to the detriment of the business. It also fosters discontent among employees who are still working full-time."
Opinion differed around the feasibility of part-time work for senior managers, with most saying it would be difficult to be a part-time CE.
The most common advice for anyone wanting to become a CE is to get a broad range of experience. However, one CE warned that diverse experience is not always desirable if it forces people to work in an environment they don't enjoy.
This section identifies a number of initiatives to encourage gender and ethnic diversity in Public Service agencies. It is not comprehensive.
· The Department of Corrections, in line with its strategic goal to succeed with Māori offenders, has recognised it needs to deliver its programmes in a context where all leaders and staff understand and are skilled and confident in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view). This has been integrated throughout all its new leadership competencies, rather than being relegated to a single competency. The department says confidence and competence in Te Ao Māori can only come from repeated exposure to te reo, processes such as mihimihi and powhiri, and key concepts such as manaakitanga and whanaungatanga, and this is being built into all departmental leadership training as appropriate.
· The Inland Revenue Department has created a Diversity Framework 2009-2112 that aims to support the development of its diverse workforce, build organisational understanding of diversity and promote an inclusive culture. The immediate focus is on ethnicity, age and disability because, it says, there is high representation of women in the organisation as a whole and good representation at senior management levels.
· The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs (MPIA) has set up a programme to improve analytical and research skills among Pacific staff within MPIA that also has participants from other State sector agencies. Auckland University of Technology provides academic oversight and teaching in the first half of the year, and the second-half programme content is designed with input from the Ministry and participating agencies. Teaching is done onsite and offered via videoconference in its Auckland and Christchurch regional offices.
· MPIA is also involved in setting up the Leadership Development Centre (LDC) Pacific Leadership Development Programme, designed for Pacific State sector servants capable of assuming senior leadership and management roles in the sector.
· The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has set up the Te Aratiatia programme to prepare potential Māori and Pacific staff to progress into a management role. The programme is based around formal assessment, on and off the job learning opportunities, and ongoing coaching and development. It is unique in that it combines Māori and Pacific cultures.
· MSD also runs Te Aka Matua, a senior development programme for Māori and Pacific managers who show potential to lead and manage at a senior management level. There are six places, and the programme includes support to complete a Masters level tertiary qualification.
· MSD has created a Women's Development Forum for current and emerging MSD female leaders, to hear from successful role models and learn new strategies to manage their own careers.
· MSD has a full-time talent scout whose job is to look for talent both inside and outside MSD. It also holds a 'People Forum' twice a year where senior managers consider every individual staff member down to tier 4, looking at their careers and potential.
· The National Library has an internship programme for hiring young Māori in particular and supporting them in tertiary qualifications while they work.