Three Tips for How to Get More Women on Corporate Boards

The United Kingdom and Australia have significantly increased the number of women on corporate boards in recent years, while representation in the United States has stalled. Nneka Orji of The Glasshammer reports that female representation in the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 company boardrooms increased from 12.5 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2016. Similarly, Alexandra Spring writes in the Guardian that 26 percent of the director positions in Australia’s ASX 200 companies are now held by women, with a target of 30 percent by 2018. In contrast, Linda Colby of Bloomberg News reports that only 19.9 percent of board seats in S&P 500 companies were held by women in 2015, up from 19.2 percent in 2014. At this rate, Colby notes, it will take more than forty years for women in the United States to reach 30 percent representation on corporate boards. How have the United Kingdom and Australia made so much progress? In the United Kingdom, the Davies Review found that setting a clear five-year target in 2011 of achieving 25 percent representation by women, along with a public commitment from senior leaders to proactively address unconscious bias and other obstacles for women, resulted in the increase. In Australia, research from 2005–2011 found that companies with more women on boards showed higher financial performance. This research led to a 2011 report that called for organizations to set numeric targets and report on them. Australia’s implementation of these recommendations also increased the representation of women on corporate boards to 26 percent in 2016. Why does it matter that more women be on boards? A 2016 study by EY and the Peterson Institute of International Economics showed that “companies with at least 30 percent women in leadership may boost profit margins by 15 percent.” In addition, an earlier study by the index provider MCSI found that companies with more women “delivered 35 percent better ROI since 2010 than those groups lacking board diversity.” It just makes business sense to have more women on boards—but talk won’t get us there. Here are three important components of what worked in the United Kingdom and Australia:

  • Setting specific and time-bound goals
  • Being transparent about committing to those goals
  • Building in accountability and linking remuneration to progress against gender diversity targets
These are important lessons for the United States. We have not yet made these commitments. Are there other steps that you think would increase the representation of women on boards? Please share your ideas in the comments section.   The image in this post is in the public domain courtesy of Hillyne Jonkerman]]>

Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life—A Book Review

Wendy Murphy and Kathy E. Kram have written an important book about why we all need developmental support networks for both career success and personal well-being—and how to develop those networks. The book is practical and easy to read, with lots of research-based examples and tips. Reflection activities at the end of each chapter encourage the reader to apply the concepts immediately to her own career and life. What I found most interesting were these points about mentoring that I had not considered: Formal and informal mentors. The authors reviewed scores of studies and conducted several of their own that revealed that having a formal mentor, often assigned in a workplace program, is valuable but not enough. We need a network of mentors, both formal and informal, to reach our goals and enable us to “cope with stress and thrive during times of change.” Trends in the changing nature of work. These trends require that we take charge of our career development and have multiple types and sources of mentoring. The authors identified the most significant trends as the following:

  1. Job mobility—it is not uncommon for people to work in multiple organizations during their working lives.
  2. Globalization—the world we live in is increasingly connected, and we need to keep learning from different people how to be effective across cultures and national boundaries.
  3. Technology—technology creates new challenges for how to both engage and disengage from work.
  4. Pace of change—the pace of change has become very fast and can be overwhelming. We need to be able to adapt and change continually.
Essential skills for developing your network. The authors note that the basic ingredients for developing a productive mentoring network are relationship-building skills. Core to relationship skills are self-awareness and social skills. Social skills include listening, giving and receiving feedback, empathy, conflict management, and the ability and willingness to share aspects of your story. Concrete suggestions for how to develop these skills are included in this book, as well as in Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. How to develop a mentor. The authors encourage readers to be proactive and reach out to people who are potential mentors. They suggest some steps to take in this process:
  1. Get clear about your own strengths and career goals. Select potential mentors who might know something or someone who could help you move forward on your path.
  2. Invite a potential mentor for coffee or lunch for an informational interview.
  3. Ask thought-provoking questions, such as the following:
    1. Could you tell me about your career path? How did you get to the position you are in today?
    2. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from each promotion or change?
    3. What are the best and worst aspects of your current job? Of your current organization?
    4. How would you advise someone who wanted to follow a similar career path?
Types of mentors. A recent article in the Boston Globe suggests there are three kinds of informal mentors who meet different types of needs:
  1. The co-mentor—someone who is your equal with whom you can exchange skills, knowledge, and encouragement.
  2. The remote mentor—someone outside of your organization who can give you a fresh perspective.
  3. The invisible mentor—someone who you can learn from with little or no direct interaction. This can be a role model who inspires you and whom you may never meet in person.
Other tips. Diversity matters. Be intentional about developing informal mentoring relationships with people from different social contexts than your own. Broader perspectives can challenge your thinking and open up new networks for you. This book is worth spending some time with. Each career move and stage of life brings new challenges in choosing and navigating your path. Periodically update your mentoring network to keep it fresh and diverse so that you have the support you need throughout your life. We all need support.]]>