The Next Boardroom Battleground – Part 3

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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.

 What evolution can we see regarding gender balance, and is it satisfactory? Read part 3 of this 4 part Q&A series…

Q> Has the situation improved at all in recent years?

Obviously there are some people whose minds are still closed; they don’t want women at all, unless they are secretaries or receptionists. Now, due to legislation, unions etc, outdated bosses cannot carry on doing an ostrich act and just ignore gender balance. The consequences of this could be quite alarming for
them—not only legally but in terms of workplace friction and morale, which of course ultimately affect the bottom line.

Fortunately, the more enlightened leaders and CEOs increasingly want to ‘do their bit’ and be supportive, modern, progressive thinkers, welcoming women at all levels. It is just the problem of how to do it successfully as a win-win solution for everyone!

Q> What has changed and what do the changes mean?

It depends on the country/legislation. France has passed laws this year regarding gender balance/ discrimination. The UK government has introduced recommendations and targets but there is no legislation as yet.

The consequences of non-implementation of these guidelines risk being unpleasant—in bad cases corporations could face:

  • Þ Union and legal action for gender discrimination.
  • Þ Bad reputation/public image for not integrating gender balance.
  • Þ If the wrong/incompetent people are chosen just for the statistics, the outcome can include bad decisions and stress as well as pressure at senior management and board level.

Q> I am sure there are many CEOs who are too busy to be able to make this a priority as it requires a considerable investment of time. Isn’t it really the job of Human Resources to address this matter?

Yes indeed. Many CEOs just don’t have the time— however much they want to. Also, to be successful, they really do need to implement an active ongoing strategy that integrates all the essentials both short and long term. This is why it isn’t really something that can be handed over to Human Resources.

The strategy has to come from the top for it to be successful. This is what I specialise in: working with the leaders, chairmen and CEOs to set up and implement it, obviously working closely with Human Resources once the strategy has been signed off by the leader/CEO.

Q> So what has to be taken into account?

As well as the overall benefits to the bottom line of having gender balance in their corporation, it is valid for bosses to take into account their employees predeterminations what a person believes about themselves, their vision or inner identity—if they see themselves as a manager and not a director (I am using the British definition here for manager and director) they will always have a mental block about being a powerful, efficient, competent director. They need to change their inner identity in order to move into that mindset. No amount of skills training will help without a fundamental alteration in their own perceptions and self-belief. On the other hand, if the person has the mindset and motivation but not the skillset, then acquisition of skills would be the focal point for progress. This is probably the easiest situation to remedy.

Far too often, these two KEY issues are brushed aside and companies then wonder why they constantly have problems and never seem to have chosen the right person!

Q> What needs to be done differently in order to find a successful solution to these issues?

Once the corporate strategy on gender balance has been created—and this really does need to be taken seriously— then the implementation phase should be put in place.

The first two key issues I mentioned—motivation and mindset—must be addressed by a self-discovery goal analysis. Another essential is ongoing evolution! Corporations are far more aware of the benefits of coaching and mentoring these days, but frequently this is all viewed as a static process—like a course of training which occurs over a fixed period and once finished, is totally forgotten. Our minds, mentality and emotions are like our muscles: if you don’t continue the training programme you don’t progress; you stay at the same level… so there should be support, follow-up and evolution to allow each person to continue to move forwards and upwards.

As well as mentoring, there is ‘buddying’ to be taken into consideration, which is very productive—particularly when used in tandem with mentoring or coaching.



  • 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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