The Next Boardroom Battleground – Part 2

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Anna Letitia Cook

Energising International Executives for more successful, productive, fulfilling leadership
International Executive and Holistic Success Coach | Author | Podcast Presenter | 30+ years working internationally

New legislation makes gender balance a Europe-wide priority…

  • Þ French bill passed (23/07/14) ‘Real equality between men and women’ (including measures addressing professional equality, parity in politics, corporate boards, government bodies, public institutions)
  • Þ UK Lord Davies report “Women on Boards” Feb 2011, progress reports 2012, 2013, 2014 —Introduction of ’targets’ for boards of FTSE companies: minimum 25% female representation at board level by 2015.
  • Þ Germany’s law on quotas: Germany’s biggest companies have been ordered to ensure that 30% of supervisory board positions are held by women from 2016. (law agreed 25/11/14)
  • Þ Similar measures introduced in Norway, Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Þ In 2013 the EU Commission said that it was considering forcing companies to increase the number of women on their boards.

 Gender Balance as it applies in the workplace: Read part 2 of this 4 part Q&A series…

Q> What do you feel are the challenges and issues facing women in business today?

It is basically the same workplace, but with different realities… The way in which men and women approach issues in business is often very different. Due to traditional predeterminations, women often feel at a disadvantage: they think they don’t know the ‘invisible rules of success.’ Whether it is conveying your abilities, being seen and heard, dealing with corporate politics, being a productive team member (and being appreciated as such), building an effective network or leading successfully, far too many executive women unknowingly undermine their credibility by making simple mistakes in their attitude and behaviour.

Q> What are these mistakes? Are they real or imagined?

In business, the majority of women executives feel they have a real disadvantage – something with which statistics tend to agree. Even though women are now in business in unprecedented numbers, they still find that being promoted at the same rate as men is difficult. Today, only a small percentage of women have reached the top. Of the 47% of the workforce that are women, only 15% of them are in executive positions. Becoming successful in the corporate world needs focus, dedication and commitment.

For example, the number of women on the board of directorship in Europe (Catalyst 2012) isn’t very impressive: – Norway leads the way with 36.3%, while the worst is Portugal with 2.3%… the countries where I work the most are middling—France on 16.6% and the UK on 10.7%.

Q> Why is this, do you think?

I believe there are several reasons. Traditionally, the idea of the man being the breadwinner has obviously been a part of it, but that is changing now. However, I think a lack of role models and feeling like an outsider don’t help. It is difficult when you don’t really have many examples to follow, or other colleagues in similar positions to speak to on the way up…

There is another, newer report by Credit Suisse (Sept 2014), probably the largest of its kind, which shows that the higher the ratio of women in front office jobs, (i.e. senior management roles such as CEO, operations chiefs, finance and strategy), the better the stock market performance.

The bank also looked at women not on the board, and saw a link between companies with more female executives and higher returns on equity, higher valuations, better stock performance and higher payouts of dividends. “There’s a very strong outperformance of companies that have women in management, particularly in operational roles,” said Stefano Natella, Credit Suisse’s global head of equity research. For instance, when the bank compared companies where women make up less than five percent of the top operational jobs to those where more than 10% of these key positions are held by women, it found a 27% higher return on equity and a 42% higher ratio of dividend payouts for those with greater gender diversity.

◊ Since 2005, companies with at least 1 female director have returned a compound 3.7% above their male only counterparts

◊ Since 2005, ROEs of companies with a female board member have averaged 14.1% vs 11.2% for all-male boards

◊ Where >15% of senior management is female, ROEs in 2013 were 14.7% compared to 9.7% at companies with <10%.

◊ Companies with higher female participation in management have higher leverage: 57% where there is >15% in 2013 vs 35% where there is <10%.

◊ As for the price to book value, we find a P/BV of 2.4x on 2013 book values for those companies with female representation on their boards versus 1.8x for those without, and a nine year average for boards with women directors of 2.3x versus 1.8x for companies with all male boards.



  • Discrimination works both ways.
  • The best person should be the one appointed to the job.
  • Climbing the corporate ladder needs dedication, hard work, perseverance
    and talent, whatever your gender.
  • Women should have an equal opportunity. This means they have to earn
    respect and promotion through their ability and that alone.
  • Having women at the highest level in a corporation improves the bottom line.
  • Men and women working together in harmony, supporting and understanding each other’s way of thinking and way of working, produces a win-win solution for all!

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