The Next Boardroom Battleground – Part 4

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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

Key questions which I think clearly define the way we react, and direct the action which is taken: Read part 4 of this 4 part series…

New legislation makes gender balance a Europe-wide priority and it is an area no company or organisation can afford to ignore. Recent examples of the relentless progress of this issue include:

  • 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.

 Sometimes, legislation isn’t the only answer. The fact remains that getting the right person for the job is still vital – up to and including board level – this applies equally to men as it does to women. In order to achieve the desired result, there has to be a considerable amount of soul-searching at all levels and by both sexes. Regardless of whatever legislation is in place, people are people and as such, have to be prepared to be brutal and see themselves ‘warts and all.’

Instead of women feeling they should be promoted ‘because the law says so’, they should also ask themselves some searching questions, rather than simply hiding behind a bureaucratic shield and demanding ‘their rights.’

Several points clearly highlighted in CS Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management are:

  • Is it up to governments to drive diversity or are companies now embracing diversity issues effectively and sufficiently?
  • The good news is the outperformance we charted before has been sustained. From the start of 2012 to June 2014, we have seen 5% outperformance on a sector neutral basis by those companies with at least one woman on the board. This then amounts to a compound excess return since 2005 of 3.3%
  • Board diversity has increased in almost every country and every sector, progressing from 9.6% in 2010 to 12.7%at the end of 2013. Female participation in top-management (CEO and directors
    reporting to the CEO) stands at 12.9% at the end of 2013, but
    varies considerably from sector to sector and country to country.

 …Getting the right person for the job is vital — right up to board level…

All this led me to initiate a new system to create and implement a long-term gender balance strategy and women’s career advancement programme. The planning of this happens at directorial level, so a board can implement a short and long-term plan to provide nurturing and encouragement for younger employees, progressing right through to the highest level. This is instead of just finding a ‘quick fix’ solution to meet the required statistics — a tactic which, ultimately, doesn’t help anyone!

There is no doubt that the issue of gender balance in the workplace isn’t going to go away so the sooner it is properly addressed at top level, the sooner companies will be able to devote their full attention to doing what they do best – making money.

A well-integrated, motivated and dedicated workforce will always be more productive than one where individuals – male and female – harbour resentment or feel undervalued because of their gender. 

Led from the top, a properly formulated gender balance policy – including carefully-tailored training in its implementation – would ensure optimum use of human resources throughout the company, allowing men and women employees to enjoy truly equal opportunities and ensure a bright future for the company.

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Consider other crucial gender balance-related issues:

  • Is it all about women? Is it fair to think that men are ALWAYS the bad guys — or are women themselves sometimes to blame for their lack of advancement?   Is there anything women can do about this?
  • How can men and women bosses adapt their approach — or should they have to? Have general thinking/beliefs advanced over the last 20 years?   If so, how has this benefited women?



  • 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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