Women and men directors differ on board diversity
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Men and women on corporate boards disagree why
fewer women are represented on boards, the importance of board diversity and
other key issues, according to international research conducted by Heidrick
& Struggles International, WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) and Dr. Boris
Groysberg of the Harvard Business School.
"Women and men have differing points of view as
to the reason why there are fewer women nominated and sitting on active
corporate boards today,” noted Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and managing partner
of Heidrick & Struggles’ North American Board of Directors Practice. "About
one third of women directors globally believe closed off traditional networks
are the primary reason women aren't considered for director positions, whereas
men believe there are fewer women currently in executive leadership roles, creating
a smaller talent pipeline for entrance into the board room.”
The study, now in its second year, includes
responses from 721 male and female board members in 26 countries and provides
insight into how women and men view board composition worldwide.
"Not only do women and men disagree about the
reasons why fewer women serve on boards and if quotas are effective, they also
hold disparate views on whether increasing the number of women in the boardroom
will actually improve overall board performance,” Groysberg said.
The study found 41 percent of women, but just 13
percent of men, personally support quotas. Still, more than half of women,
versus 18 percent of men, think quotas are effective for increasing board
"This is a dramatic shift from last year's
survey [which included nearly 400 female and male directors mostly in the
United States], where far fewer women and men supported quotas,” said Henrietta Holsman
Fore, co-chair of WCD and director of Theravance Inc.
"As we're learning from Norway and France,
quotas, and even the threat of quotas, can be effective in increasing board
diversity; to really work, they should be accompanied by preparatory measures,
smart guidelines and implementation plans, along with databases of qualified
women and corporate governance training.”
Some 55 percent of the female directors
surveyed, compared to 16 percent of male directors, believe three or more women
on any board make it a more effective board.
The genders also differ on how they view officer
and board succession. While nearly 60 percent of the women surveyed said their
board has an effective CEO succession plan, 74 percent of the men thought this.
Just 40 percent of the women, versus 54 percent of the men, believe their board
has an effective succession plan for directors.
"This international boardroom data is critical
-- the insights we see today will no doubt have an impact on how boards
collaborate and approach situations in the future,” Gwin said. "The required
skills for each board member are more complex in today's demanding business
environment. Our findings overall reveal multiple shifts in perception and
implications for future boardroom patterns globally.”