Written by Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane Thursday, October 06 2011
Here’s a thought: what would the business world look like if run entirely by women? After all, women are thought to be more collaborative and sensitive to certain market issues. It would be a positive change, right?
Wrong. Critics of gender diversity efforts often cite overt feminism and lack of evidence when arguing against electing more women to boards. But what they fail to highlight is the fact that gender diversity advocates acknowledge that a corporation needs businessmen just as much as it needs businesswomen.
Hindered by a longstanding business tradition and a general lack of awareness, companies continue to elect more men to their boards – often stating that the pool of qualified women is too shallow. Yet women make up approximately half of the work force and the majority of the consumer market.
So why are women still so poorly represented in the corporate boardroom?
There is an abundance of women who are ready, willing, and able to sit at the table. And qualified women at that. Contrary to a widely held belief, a board member does not have to be a sitting or retired CEO. Although an excellent addition to a board, a chief executive officer can only contribute to the scope in which he or she is an expert. Thus it is beneficial to the corporation when the board members have diverse expertise, even if this means they have a different title.
While this approach is far from mainstream, it’s important to remember that a good board is balanced board – with experts in marketing, human resources, capital markets, corporate governance, and community affairs, along with industry and financial experts. Coincidentally – or not – women are dominant in many of these industries. In fact, no one has ever said that credentials, company match, and board chemistry do not count.
All we are asking for is the same chance provided to our male colleagues. We urge corporations to view the issue of women on boards as a strategic move – an opportunity to develop a more effective, well-rounded business model. In fact, there is growing evidence that points to a stronger financial performance for companies with gender-diverse boards, as well as a better financial outlook for corporations with diversity at the senior management level.
It no longer makes sense to deny capable, professional women the right to serve on a board. But it does make sense to speak about the need for women directors. It makes sense for investors to uphold gender diversity standards.
Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane is the founder and president of Nvestcom, a capital markets consulting firm that provides strategic counsel to companies across all industry sectors. She is also a board member of Connectyx (CTYX); Florida Atlantic University School of Business, and WEL (Women Executive Leadership). She heads InterOrganizationalNetwork (ION), which consists of 14 regional organizations in the United States representing more than 10,000 women in business across a wide range of industries. Through ION, these women combine their energies in advocating the advancement of women to positions of power in the business world, especially to boards of directors and executive suites.