Do women improve boardroom dynamics?

A rise in the number of female non-executive directors means that the FTSE 100 is on track to achieving Lord Davies’ goal of having more women on the board by 2015. In total, women should hold 25 per cent of boardroom seats in just two years. However, increasing the number of women that are represented on the board needs to be a priority for all companies, not just the FTSE 100.

Women in technology

Women provide a mix of compassion, understanding and high expectation that not only provides balance in the workplace, but has also been proven to bring boardroom success. It’s been well documented that organisations with women in board level positions experience stronger corporate performance, so why have FTSE 100 companies traditionally had such poor female representation?

The recent Innovation Economy Outlook survey by Silicon Valley Bank revealed that 46 per cent of the 1,200 technology companies surveyed had women at either board level or C-level positions. Tech companies are smart enough to know that, for the most part, they don’t have a defined target market. Their target market is the global citizen, and the combinations of races, genders and creeds that shape the global identity. Any board that wants to make better decisions should have a range of voices from different backgrounds, where different ideas can be expressed. Naturally, women need to be a part of that mix.

Since Lord Davies set out his recommendations in 2011, improvements have been seen and female representation at board level has increased. However, more needs to be done.

Parity, not charity

For women to break into the boardroom, it’s important to highlight the skills and experience they hold as an asset. A deep familiarity with a particular body of knowledge – be it law, procurement, or HR – is generally a baseline requirement for a board member. What makes a difference is how this knowledge can be used to help a business run more effectively, decrease risk, and fully exploit commercial opportunities. Jobs should go to the best candidates, and women need to emphasise what their experience and knowledge brings to the table, rather than waiting for employers to figure it out.

Women also need to focus on the personal skills, such as leadership and communication, which they can bring to the boardroom. Female intuition plays well in the workplace, and women should be prepared to demonstrate how it equips them to successfully manage tough conversations and reach effective resolutions.

Changing role of board executives

The role of executives is also continuing to evolve and goes beyond looking after a single function of the business. Board members are now expected to support the CEO and contribute to a wider discussion about the overall direction of a business. Increasingly, members of the senior management team are expected to support business strategies, offer insights and contribute to key decisions.

In light of this, women with experience across a range of roles can demonstrate the business acumen and experience that helps distinguish them from their counterparts. Boards today need the agility to embrace change and adapt to a changing business environment. By gaining experience across multiple business functions, women can contribute new perspectives and participate in informed discussions to deliver greater impact. Though specialisation and focused expertise is important, it’s also helpful to have multiple strings to your bow.

Much has been published about the confidence gap in the business world – women tending to underestimate their capabilities compared to male counterparts, adopting a more cautious approach when voicing opinions or asking for promotion. With awareness of the issue growing, attitudes are shifting, and more women are now approaching the boardroom with conviction and learning techniques – from networking to coaching – that make all the difference in a man’s world.

Throughout the tech world, we’re already seeing more women rising to roles of influence. Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Ginni Rometty and Caterina Fake are just some examples of females at the helm of some of our largest technology companies. These are women that have been able to harness the right skills, convey business insight and prove that they’re willing to embrace change. When combined, these attributes put women in a position where they’re not just viable candidates, but the best candidates.

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