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Making Women on Boards the Norm

Making women on boards the norm

Making Women on Boards the Norm
Rather than the exception!

More than a decade ago, countries in Europe began to take measures to increase the gender diversity of their corporate boards.

Norway was the first to adopt a quota for female board members (40%) in 2004. Other nations followed suit – adopting either mandatory quotas (Germany, France, Belgium, Iceland, Italy) or voluntary goals (Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK), with goals for female representation ranging from 25% to 40%.

The UK government wants women to make up at least a third of boards for the UK’s 350 biggest companies by 2020. A report released by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy this month outlined the latest figures relating to the number of women who sit on company boards.

While the review’s interim report found that things are definitely improving, it also found that some firms seem to be dragging their feet and paying only lip service to diversity, with the following attitudes recorded from some of the CEOs that were interviewed:

  • “We need to build the pipeline from the bottom – there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector”
  • “There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex”
  • “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”
  • “They don’t understand the complex issues discussed in board meetings”

There is increasing pressure on companies to address this imbalance, not just from government, but also from shareholders and investors.  For example, according to the BBC website, Legal and General Investment Management – which manages nearly £1 trillion worth of assets – has promised to vote against the reappointment of chairs of the UK’s 350 biggest public companies if women don’t make up at least 25% of the board.

The tide is definitely shifting in the right direction.

“Our most successful companies are those that champion diversity.” Business Minister Andrew Griffiths

In this blog we explore:

  • Why having women on boards just makes good business sense
  • As an aspiring female professional, how you can make sure you possess the skills and behaviours to make you a top corporate asset
  • The various training options that are open to you, wherever you might be on your career trajectory

Why women on boards makes good business sense

Diversity on boards of directors enhances the ability to sustain performance. The key responsibility of the board of directors is to ensure the organisation’s growth and profitability by collectively directing the company’s affairs along with meeting the interests of the shareholders and stakeholders. Therefore, expanding the horizon of the board strengthens the talent pool and broadens the perspectives at the top.

Bringing in a variety of perspectives, diversity in backgrounds and experience can contribute to an organisation’s success. However, objectives will not be achieved if executives and managers lack the ability to appraise the different point of views that are brought to the table.

An article in Harvard Business Review cited that when Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity than the rest.

Experts believe that companies with women directors deal more effectively with risk. Not only do they better address the concerns of customers, employees, shareholders, and the local community, but also, they tend to focus on long-term priorities.

A report by Credit Suisse said companies with at least one woman director received a better return on their investments compared with companies with all-male boardrooms.  It also said that companies where women made up at least 15% of senior management were 50% more profitable than those where fewer than 10% of senior managers were female.

Women’s contributions in boardrooms gives new perspectives to a business. Having female leaders helps in breaking down cultural and structural barriers. Women represent an extraordinary talent pool and excel at creating productive and engaging work environments.

In fact, according the Wall Street Journal, women board members are likely to bring a half-dozen skills which are important to decision making that weren’t well-represented on their boards before their arrival: risk management, human resources, sustainability, politics or government, regulatory or compliance, and corporate governance.

Evidence collected by the World Bank Group from around the world, shows that gender-diverse boards, featuring men and women with a complementary mix of qualifications, skills, and experience, function better than boards without this diversity.

Breaking through the barriers to board-entry

The main barrier to achieving and maintaining gender parity stems from the notion that women do not have the required knowledge or experience to serve on corporate boards.

Women who report being successful and satisfied in their careers often engage in proactive planning. Once they’ve decided on their goals, they establish an approach to accomplish the goals. Below are some tips for strategic career development for women.

  1. Find good mentors and role models
    Look for a role model a few levels higher in your organisation or field and build a relationship. Forge mentor relationships with several people and continue to do so throughout your career, even when you reach the board of director.
  2. Do the work
    Volunteer to complete challenging projects and assignments. One of the best ways to advance your career is to identify an organisational problem and propose a solution. You will not only increase your visibility as a problem solver in the organisation, but you might also expand your skills in the process.
  3. Understand your organisation’s culture
    Understanding the organisation’s culture may start from observing its artifacts — its physical environment, employee interactions, company policies, reward systems and other observable characteristics. To what extent does the organisation encourage and reward members for improving their skills and performance and for setting and achieving challenging goals with respect to excellence and quality?
  4. Develop your skills
    Whether through informal training or certification, keep your technical and management skills current and learn about emerging knowledge areas. Commit to learning and being a sponge for information; it will set you apart and make you an invaluable resource to any team. Tapping into your talents and your natural strengths will make you infinitely more successful in your role, as well as happier and more engaged.

Develop your skills through structured training programmes or get a professional qualification through distance learning

Education is by far the most powerful secret weapon.  Being challenged is part of the career advancement process. If you don’t stretch yourself, you won’t move.

Taking professional development courses and networking with other professionals will not only inspire you about new possibilities and give you something to work towards, but will also show your boss that you’re willing to take the initiative.  Professional development is an investment in your future; it takes time and the results won’t be seen overnight, but the long-term pay off will be well worth the effort.

It ensures you’ll never get stuck in a rut and enables you to strengthen your weaker areas while also developing your strengths. Most importantly, though, professional development puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to take charge of your career with the confidence that comes from knowing where you want to go and how to get there.

The GBS Corporate Training Group has recognised that business employees want flexibility in how they learn and develop. Therefore, GBS Corporate Training and the Brighton School of Business and Management, (BSBM) the two key companies in the group, offer a range of learning options, which are proving very popular to professionals whatever their level of seniority.

Distance learning programmes provide management training that offers the convenience of being able to study at home at your own pace and time, a  key feature of online distance learning is that the students are at the centre of the learning process and they have to take a more proactive role.

For those at the earlier stages of their careers, the Brighton School of Business and Management offers a range of distance learning Management and Business Edexcel Level 5 HND qualifications, in academic, professional and career development fields, all of which are UK accredited and internationally recognised.

For more senior professionals, you may consider taking one of our Management and Leadership Training programmes, again via distance learning, which address the needs of enterprising Managers and Leaders. Our programmes are accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), which is the UK’s only chartered professional body dedicated to raising standards of Management and Leadership across all sectors of UK commerce and industry. BSBM provide the Level 7 Management and Leadership and Level 8 in Strategic Direction and Leadership.

GBS Corporate Training offers flexible programmes either created specifically for your organisation or for you to gain a specific skill-set.  GBS will tailor course content to accommodate your unique business needs or to address skills shortages in your organisation. Through this approach, you can be sure you are gaining new knowledge and skills that will be relevant to your company and your career aspirations.

Many Senior Managers find executive coaching to be a very effective route to their professional skills development. GBS has a pool of carefully selected accredited coaches, who provide 1:1 Executive coaching for business Managers and Leaders, or individuals where a need has been identified and in support of an individual’s professional development and career plans.

GBS is also an approved training provider for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI).

GBS and BSBM can help you to climb the corporate ladder to board level and prove that women do have the right skills, credentials and depth of experience to be very effective in their roles and improve the overall performance of their Board and organisation

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