Polemics

The Valentine Dilemma for women and boards

by .

Oh the frustration of Valentines – someone likes you, wants to pair up with you but they won’t tell you who they are…. This is where we have got to with getting more women on boards.

The case has been made, we don’t need to waste more column inches on it. Credit Suisse and Catalyst found a positive link between female board representation and company performance. Morgan Stanley has launched a Parity Portfolio for those who want to invest in companies who have more than three women on their boards. Women have come out in force to display their willingness, availability and credentials through Global  Board Ready Women, Women 2020….Politicians debate quotas “to legislate or not to legislate, that is the question”  but it is the companies themselves that are playing hard to get, the Valentine game. They profess to value women in management, want women on their boards but will they make a public proposal and declare themselves and the vacancies on their boards?

Ok, the big boys, the listed companies, will add “women” to their brief to the headhunters and the latter will look around the City for women who are good with spreadsheets.  But what about all those small and medium-sized, unlisted  companies who are unwilling to spend precious cash on headhunters’ fees yet would benefit so much from  a fresh view from outside, a new perspective, the  “expensive” skills/experience/insight  that they cannot afford to employ but that they could access via a Non-Exec?  They are the perfect companies for women to cut their teeth on Board skills – enthusiastic, motivated by owner-managers, less intimidating and regulation-heavy than the listed companies – and so enlarge the pool of experienced women NEDs for future, bigger Board positions.

These busy entrepreneurs won’t find the women by relying on their local, personal networks – the golf course/gym/alumni/rotary route which is how, we are told, most NEDs are identified. They need to throw the net wider and further, but how? In the same way as jobs are advertised, we need a place where these companies can advertise their Board positions and solicit applications – like a successful date, they may end up with a professional marriage made in heaven and, when they need capital, socially responsible investors flocking to offer them cash.


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