The question of why boards need more women already has a lot of answers. A quick Google search yields article after article full of good reasons why women are effective additions to boards, whether profit or nonprofit. It’s easy to see why: women add a unique perspective that gives organizations with female directors an edge in formulating strategies that apply to a much bigger picture.
In fact, the numbers speak for themselves. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that promotes inclusive workplaces for women, female directors “align with strong performance at Fortune 500 companies.” The companies with the highest number of women on their boards enjoyed a 42 percent increase in sales returns and a 52 percent increase in equity returns compared with the rest.
It’s not that women are better than men, or vice versa. This study simply shows that the presence of both men and women on boards bring better diversity that’s good for business. According to Yilmaz Arguden, CEO of Arge Consulting and chairman of Rothschild Investment Bank in Turkey, female directors are more in touch with female consumers’ needs. Given that women dominate purchase decisions in Europe and the United States, knowing what they want gives a company a significant edge over its competitors. Also, Arguden pointed out that female directors handle risks better because they focus on long-term priorities. This balances well with men’s tendency to focus on the now.
Actions have been done to bring more women on boards in the past several years. Norway, in particular, implemented a compulsory 40 percent quota in 2004 as a move to break the glass ceiling. Norway required company boards to assign 40 percent of their seats to women. This move was met with mixed reaction, but other countries across Europe soon followed. As can be seen in this chart, Norway tops the list of countries with the highest number of female directors, followed by Sweden and Finland. The top three all came from Europe.
Although there’s still a lot left to be done to bring more women on boards, the important thing is that the role of women in the boardroom is now recognized, and hopefully, this leads to more female directors in the future.
But there’s another pressing question that still needs to be addressed. Although it’s clear why women should be on boards, how to get them is another question. Yes, quotas exist to allow for more female directors, but are boardroom conditions adjusted well enough to accommodate women’s needs? Are more women willing enough to be female directors because they feel they can maintain work-life balance? Being a female director – or a CEO, for that matter – can be challenging for the working woman with a family to take care of.
If you want your organization to benefit from having female directors, you have to think beyond meeting the quota, if your country has one. You also have to go beyond diversifying just for the sake of it. To attract more women to your board, you should make it easier for them to raise a family while serving as a director for your organization.
You can start with something as simple as implementing a board portal solution such as Boardbooks, BoardVantage, BoardPad, or Convene. Board portals allow board members to access meeting files on a mobile device with Internet access, so female directors who are also busy mothers can open these documents whenever it’s convenient for them. More importantly, they can attend board meetings remotely. They wouldn’t have to travel and block off a big chunk of their schedule; they can virtually join a board meeting from their own homes. There’s no reason why women have to sacrifice family life over career or vice versa when there’s technology that can create a compromise between the two.
But of course, you need to go beyond the boardroom if you want to develop female talents for your organization. Instead of limiting your search to female directors, cast the net wider and look for talented women to fill various positions in your organization. Develop these women’s skills and help their career grow so that they can become female directors in the future.
Female insight in business is a valuable component for a company’s success, so don’t hesitate to make the necessary changes to make your organization an ideal workplace for women.