Corporate governance: The 5th edition of the Female Board Pool Seminar last month was the opportunity to assess gender equality in the boardroom and move a step closer to narrowing the persisting gap.
How you read the European Commission’s latest report about women and men in leadership positions depends largely on your nature. The most optimistic amongst us will find it encouraging. The others? Pretty depressing.
The survey states that women accounted for 16.6% of board members of large publicly listed companies in the 27 EU member states in 2013. Compared to 2010 where this figure was 11.8%, it’s an increase. Hurray.
However, nearly one in four large listed companies still have no female representatives at all at board level and the 2020 target of 40% will, of course, never be reached at this rate. Not to mention that Luxembourg hasn’t even mustered up to the 2010 levels: in the Grand Duchy only 10.1% of board members are female.
Luckily though, initiatives are being taken to change the situation. Not only at European level, where quota strategies are developed amid heated discussions, but also locally. In Luxembourg, the Female Board Pool, launched in 2011, helps prepare companies to welcome women on boards by matching and vetting qualified female board of director candidates. The pool has also organised five corporate governance seminars for women and runs a successful mentoring programme.
“My conviction is that an initiative like ours takes three to five years to take off, so we will see more and more results,” says Rita Knott, president of Maison du Coaching, Mentoring et Consulting. “Last summer I got the first request from a stock exchange quoted company to find a female board candidate and we were able to put forward 22 suitable profiles.”
The Female Board Pool has a confidential database with 320 board-ready women and the matching up is free of charge. As for the cross-mentoring programme, it has benefitted ten women so far. “Mentoring is a powerful tool and all involved profit from it. We are currently looking for more board of director mentors to expand the programme.”
“Regardless if you like quotas or not, it’s a fact that diverse boards give better results. For economic efficiency, it’s logical to have a fair composition of competences on the board of director.”
Despite the positive results obtained in countries that have adopted legislative quotas, Knott is personally not in favour of this solution. “Shareholders should not have to have political considerations when choosing board members. The quotas make everyone emotional and create a female against men situation, which isn’t productive. We should build bridges instead. However, the quota accelerates the discussion and that’s a good thing! ”
Hopefully the talking will lead to some more action, including in the Grand Duchy. “There are three major prejudices we are still confronted with: there are no women who want a board position, women are not competent and it’s too costly to find them. None of this is true.” ￼