Today, I want to tackle an old topic with a fresh perspective: the importance of gender balanced boards.
I feel that the pandemic, the state of our planet and social and political ideologies make it even more important for Voice At The Table (and others like us) to keep pursuing our purpose with even more passion and rigour so as to maintain the momentum that got us here. And, while the focus on diversity and inclusion seems to have returned to many corporate agendas, many sectors are backtracking on promises and initiatives, including gender balance. So let’s remind ourselves of the old business case and look at new research, all pointing to the fact that women are the answer to many of our world’s problems.
- Business nowadays is highly complex. Business decisions traverse matters such as global political and economic regimes, technology, cultural differences and sophisticated customer demands. Success requires companies to make complex and risky decisions. This kind of decision making is vastly improved by diverse experiences, perspectives and opinions of the decision makers. Diverse views make it less likely for boards to be blindsided by groupthink or influenced by narrowly-pooled behaviours and habits of the in-group. So boards need not only gender-balance but also other type of diverse representation to ensure decisions are as informed as they can be.
- In today’s world, companies recognise the importance of better understanding their employees, customers and markets. But if you fail to represent 50% of the population in your boardroom, it is highly likely that you will be unable to fulfil this requirement.
- Women tend to me more risk-averse which helps temper excessive risk-taking by over-confident male board members. This improves the company’s reputation and lowers the number of corporate fraud incidents.
- Companies with more women on boards initiate fewer takeovers. Given the fact that most mergers and acquisitions tend to fall short of expectations, this saves the waste of resources and energy that can be better used on more important strategies.
- Women tend to think beyond profit and deliver to a wider pool of stakeholders. New research shows, for example, that companies with women on their board tend to use more renewable energy, delivering environmental benefits.
- Similarly, women care more about CSR than their male counterparts, thus delivering good for a broader spread of stakeholders. Here are a few specific examples, evidenced in recent research:
- Women have a less aggressive attitude to corporate tax which means they’re likely to contribute more taxes to their governments.
- Women are less likely to downsize the workforce than their male counterparts, safeguarding the livelihood of employees.
- As we’ve seen with some of the female country leaders, women also tend to have a more generous response to those who have suffered in a natural disaster.
Governments and corporations nowadays fulfil the demands of nearly 8 billion people on this planet. Companies also influence our world in ways that go beyond their products and services. Many corporations have great social impact ambitions and influence over societies. In fact, we have recently seen a number of situations where companies have acted where governments have failed to do so. In other words, companies nowadays no longer focus on profit alone – they play the role of social influencers and guardians of a more sustainable future.
For this reason, it is important to get the right combination of leadership at the helms of corporations, and women must be a big part of the mix. The business case for more women navigating the course of companies is clear. But if we need evidence that women are the correction that humanity requires in order for us to get back on track, we have it. Women deliver much more than just financial benefits to organisations, particularly if there is more than one of them in the mix.
So, just like the world needs a post-pandemic re-set, so do corporate boardrooms. Male dominated boardrooms are not part of our future – a future that is looking to women to save the day.