I was lucky enough to attend the recent Amercian Acadmey of Management Conference in Philidelphia along with 7,000 other delegates. There was a general consensus among members of the Gender and Diversity Division of the Academy that the pool of board-ready women is growing but it will be many years before equity targets are achieved.
Along with three Australian collegues, Linley Lord and Melissa Marinelli from Curtin University as well as Alison Sheridan from the University of New England, I was there to present a paper, ‘Stakeholder perceptions of the “right” pathway for women to corporate board membership’. The paper reported on research we undertook with male and female board chairs, female board members, representatives of corporate goverance industry bodies, board recruitment specialists and diversity on boards advocates.
The research findings highlighted the pathways that this group suggested can lead to a corporate board appointment. Such pathways include:
- Having the right experience, preferably at CEO or senior executive level of an ASX-listed company
- Having the appropriate skill set, including key skills such as:
Previous involvement in large-scale business transactions;
A comprehensive understanding of risk;
Extensive financial skills; and
Deep-seated knowledge and understanding of corporations.
- Having an effective network. The network needs to include strong professional relationships with company owners and board chairs.
- Having a high profile.
- Fitting in’ – which was summed up as being able to engender the trust of other board members.
Discussion in our session and subsequent conversations with colleagues also researching women and corporate boards suggest that in most countries with similar systems of corporate governance, women are slowly but steadily increasing their presence on corporate boards.
There is still a long way to go. Interestingly, the Australian system of industry self-regulation in this area is seen as a model of best practice. The US is seen to be lagging behind largely because there is no appetite for government intervention or the setting of targets beyond those which a particular corporation may set for itself. This situation is not likely to change in the future.
Professor Anne Ross-Smith will be a speaker at the upcoming Macquarie University Women, Management and Work Conference, held in Sydney on 12 November 2014, http://www.mq.edu.au/womens-conference/.