For years, women have sought greater representation on corporate boards. There have been calls for greater gender equality and a greater emphasis on the need to bridge the salary gap between men and women. The underrepresentation of women on boards remains a key focus area for organizations globally. Now more than ever, organizations are increasingly recognizing that gender diversity in the boardroom is imperative to their success. However, more action is needed as the overall progress remains slow. There is still an acute shortage of women in top management positions and at the C-Suite level. While some boards already have a substantial representation of women, they must make it a continuous priority to increase that number. Without a deliberate plan, it could take generations to reach gender parity in the boardroom.
To be truly effective, a board requires a diversity of skills, cultures and views to enable them make smart decisions that have a lasting impact. Diverse backgrounds and experiences on corporate boards, including those of directors who represent the broad range of society, strengthen board performance and promote the creation of long-term shareholder value.
Does adding women to the C-Suite change how companies think? Does board gender diversity have an effect on firm performance? This article aims to illuminate the range of business benefits associated with gender diversity on boards.
Innovation. Diverse experiences and viewpoints play a significant role in fostering innovation since varied perspectives lead to better decision-making. Innovation is not only associated with a firm’s products, but also with its ability to effectively align its strategy, systems and leadership practices to support innovation. An important element in the board’s oversight is to approve and monitor the company’s business strategy to achieve long-term value creation. The board of directors monitors the progress of strategy implementation, as well as influences the senior team in establishing a corporate culture that encourages innovation.
A high-performing board is one that generates and implements the freshest and most inclusive ideas. Studies have found that diversity has been a compelling element of human capital management for long-term resilience. Some of the most innovative publicly listed companies in the world- Nike, Amazon, Visa, etc. all have one thing in common- they have more women on their boards compared to their industry peers. A strong female presence on the board is a defining feature for companies recognized as innovators. Additionally, these companies have quantitative diversity targets for recruitment and the senior management is dedicated to overseeing gender diversity and inclusion initiatives.
A culture that embraces new ideas is a culture that values gender diversity. Recruiting women directors creates positive feedback loops that pave the way for boards’ future diversity and capacity for supporting long-term innovation and creativity.
Improved Corporate Governance. Increasing the number of women on boards is an essential ingredient for effective corporate governance. Corporate governance is related to the mechanisms by which stakeholders exercise control over operational management and ensure that their interests are protected. The range of stakeholders includes equity shareholders, creditors, employees, suppliers, customers, and governmental entities. The board of directors is a fundamental component of corporate governance, serving as the voice of shareholders in overseeing executive leadership.
Board independence, size and composition (including diversity among its members) are essential aspects when examining whether or not the board is effectively meeting its responsibilities. In this regard, a key function is to help shape and guide the company’s long-term strategic positioning within its industry.
Boards are increasingly recognizing that those with members who represent a good mix of gender, age, experience and background tend to foster constructive debate and decision-making. When a gender imbalance exists, boards can easily fall into the ‘group think’ mentality and fail to see and account for perspectives that might enhance company performance. Great ideas can arise only when a diverse pool of thought is active and present at the table.
Access to a Wider Pool of Talent. Proactively hiring women is important at levels, but putting them on your board sets the tone of hiring in your organization. By diversifying your board, you do more than widen the top management talent pool-you send a signal that developing women and minorities is generally important to you as leaders. Consequently, this leads to employee diversity, which can help drive your organization to limitless growth.
Additionally, women tend to feel isolated with the lack of female role models in firms where diversity is not included, especially in managerial positions. Diversifying your board goes a long way in creating an organizational culture that values and encourages diversity.
Better Consumer Insight. No company will remain competitive for long, if it ignores half of its available labour pool. Diverse boards often better mirror customer and client bases. This is particularly true in healthcare, which is a complex space with a very diverse customer base. It helps better understand purchasing and usage decisions, especially seeing that women drive a huge percentage of the purchasing power globally. Without women on your board, you are missing a valuable opportunity to bring in voices that represent a broad swath of potential and actual consumers.
To conclude, having a diverse board is good for business at all levels. By making it a priority to bring in a range of voices and encouraging women to be leaders, you can improve your organization’s performance and create a robust pipeline for future organizational leaders.
About the Women Directors Leadership Programme
The Women Directors Leadership Programme (WDLP) is an incisive programme that aims at moving the focus from why women should be on boards and C-Suite positions to how they should perform for both board and leadership excellence.
Between 12th and 14th July 2022, participants of the Women Directors Leadership Programme- Class of 2022, visited the Cranfield School of Management in the United Kingdom for their international module.
During the class sessions, the participants were taken through topics such as challenges women in leadership face, gendered cultures, cross cultural competencies and the role of women on boards.
On top of the class sessions, the participants also visited Refinitiv, an LSEG business, where they learnt about data analytics and how to use data for informed decision making in their organizations.
The module culminated with a visit to Marlborough House; the Commonwealth headquarters where Dr. Luis Franceschi took the participants through a session on ethics.
2023 intake is ongoing! Learn more here
Article by Michelle Nthemba
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