Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy (sad) International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day. But there’s not much to celebrate in the boardrooms of corporate Canada. Catalyst is a nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. Their recent report, 2009 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, tells the same sad story we have heard for many years about women’s lack of representation on major business boards.

In 2009, 44.9% of public companies have no women on their Board and 28.5% have one women director. Those are shameful numbers. In both 2007 and 2009 less than one–fifth of companies had three or more women on their boards.

A 2006 paper by Vicki Kramer, Alison Konrad and Sumru Erkut Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance finds “The number of women on a board makes a difference. While a lone woman can and often does make substantial contributions, and two women are generally more powerful than one, increasing the number of women to three or more enhances the likelihood that women’s voices and ideas are heard and that boardroom dynamics change substantially.
The magic seems to occur when three or more women serve on a board together. Suddenly having women in the room becomes a normal state of affairs. No longer does any one woman represent the “woman’s point of view,” because the women express different views and often disagree with each other. Women start being treated as individuals with different personalities, styles, and interests. Women’s tendencies to be more collaborative but also to be more active in asking questions and raising different issues start to become the boardroom norm. We find that having three or more women on a board can create a critical mass where women are no longer seen as outsiders and are able to influence the content and process of board discussions more substantially.”

It’s no better in boardrooms around the world according to the World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report 2010. The first study to cover the world’s largest employers in 20 countries, it also benchmarks them against the gender equality policies that most companies should have in place but are, in fact, widely missing.

“The findings of The Corporate Gender Gap Report are an alarm bell on International Women’s Day that the corporate world is not doing enough to achieve gender equality. While a certain set of companies in Scandinavia, the US and the UK are indeed leaders in integrating women, the idea that most corporations have become gender-balanced or women-friendly is still a myth. With this study, we are giving businesses a one-stop guide on what they need to do to close the corporate gender gap,” said Saadia Zahidi, Co-author of the report and head of the Forum’s Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme.

No comments:

Post a Comment