Why We Need More Women On Boards
Why we need more women on boards and how to get started
The low percentage of women in the senior ranks of business, government and politics is rooted in women’s historical place is society. Women make up half the population and, more recently, over 50 per cent of university graduates, but they continue to hold less than a quarter of the key decision making positions.
Why does this matter?
- Boards, or in the case of politics the Cabinet, are where the ultimate decisions are taken and capital is allocated. Did you know that female-only sports attract only 5% cent of sports funding in the UK, whilst male-only sports attract 40%, even though women are matching or outdoing men in the medal counts. Or that only 5 per cent of early-stage investment capital goes to female entrepreneurs, even though women start businesses at a similar rate to men?
- Boards also set the tone for organisational culture and ethics. Many of our current large organisations were designed by men for men, in the days when women were excluded from much of the workforce. With a wife at home, these organisational designers of the past had no need for flexible working or child-care facilities. In 2014, with so few women at the top challenging stereotypes and pointing out the things that don’t work well for them, organisations are lacking both the impetus to change and the insights needed to design a better culture and model, including meeting the needs of working mums.
There is considerable research that shows that organisations led by diverse boards including at least three women outperform their peer group. Diversity reduces the risk of boards succumbing to group-think, and the related pressure to “not rock the boat”. And the increased challenge that accompanies diverse ways of viewing the world is our best defence against some of the shocking lapses of ethics that have characterised recent scandals across various sectors of business and politics.
- Finally there is the need for female role models. Young people often decide what they want to do with their lives when they see someone or something that inspires them and captures their imagination. We need more women at the top of organisations and politics to inspire and excite girls and young women about what it means to be in a position of ultimate responsibility and play an active part in changing the world. When asked if she minds being a “token woman”, Shami Chakrabati, Director of Liberty, responded that she sees herself as a “beacon” not a “token”. We need a lot more beacons for ambitious young women to follow.
The top 7 reasons why being a director is good for your career
Adding a board appointment or directorship to your CV is a sure way of drawing attention and validating your capabilities whilst catapulting your career up the ladder of success. There are many benefits to be gained from this career portfolio strategy. The top seven reasons why being a director will benefit your career:
- Joining a board indicates to management or your clients that you are interested and engaged in your community at a leadership level.
- A directorship can be a point of difference on your CV when applying for a new role.
- You will build market and industry knowledge and networks through exposure to a diverse range of issues from the perspective of a director. It may be where your next client or job comes from.
- It builds your capacity to develop career and leadership skills that you may not be able to develop in your day job.
- If you need to take a career break at any stage, a directorship can give you continuity on your CV. It will help you maintain professional contacts and could provide you with the confidence to re-enter the workforce more easily after a significant break.
- Directorships improve career resilience and provide strategic understanding of workforce dynamics.
- It gives you the chance to explore the idea of a post-executive board career.
Finding a board appointment that suits your interests, skills and geography takes patience, determination and effort. It is important to be clear on the type of role you are looking for and what skills and networks you are able to bring to the table.
Take time to write a board CV and make your aspirations known to those in your personal and professional network. Join an organisation that specialises in helping people achieve their board ambitions. These organisations often list board vacancies, be sure to scan them frequently and apply for roles. Be strategic in your networking and professional development.
If you have little or no board experience, look at smaller not-for-profits or industry and professional association committees and government bodies that select by professional expertise. There are many smaller companies, including FTSE-listed, whose boards value having successful SME operators as directors because they understand the challenges of a smaller company
WOB UK regularly run Getting Started workshops, a half-day workshop designed for anyone considering their first board role or seeking to add a new NED role to their portfolio. Whether you are already sitting on a board or just starting to think about it, you will get something out of this fast-paced tour through everything you need to know about directorship and how to do yourself justice as a candidate there’s one in Leeds on November 3rd 2015 – to find out more and register, see http://www.womenonboards.co.uk/my/events/975
Northern Success stories
WOB UK regularly publishes success stories listing women within the network who are getting onto boards. Below are some examples of women in the North of England who have applied for and won NED roles with WOB’s help – you can read more success stories here http://www.womenonboards.co.uk/news/on-board/
– Margaret Longden, Managing Director of Countrywide, has been appointed as Governor at Kings in Macclesfield and also as a Non Executive Director of LEASE which is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government. Margaret sourced these roles herself after attending a WOB Getting Started Workshop.
– Gill Weeks, OBE, has been appointed to the Board of the Environment Agency by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Gill came to our Getting Started workshop in Manchester and took advantage of some WOB guidance and encouragement during the selection process. “Thank you so much for all your help and support, without your encouragement I think I would have assumed that this one was ‘too big’ for a first appointment. I’m thrilled to have made it to the end and am looking forward to starting in September.”
– Charlotte Sweeney, Founder & Director of Creating Inclusive Cultures employer collaboration and consultancy Charlotte Sweeney Associates Ltd, has become Vice-Chair of Mid Yorks NHS Trust.