When it comes to organisational health, judged by financial and efficiency metrics, the more women at the top, the better the financial returns says McKinsey & Company.
Put another way, it’s not just what you say and do but how well you do it.
Yes a male CEO can justifiably say ‘we want to employ more female car sales staff’ but the reason there are so few might be because the business isn’t perceived to be a female friendly employer from the Boardroom down.
Certainly that’s true of the UK motor industry, which is the big picture in too many female minds – and I’m talking about women in a broad context; seen as Board member recruits, staff AND customers.
So whilst it’s encouraging to hear that Lord Davies is being listened to in UK Boardrooms we’re a long way short of making the impact we need to en route to a new target of 33% of women board members at FTSE 350 firms by 2020.
That’s too far away and well short of the 50% I want to see in my working lifetime.
The Executive Gender Elastoplast
All too often however, a female Non Executive Director (NED) is the ‘tick the box must have’ Elastoplast solution. This is because an unconvinced CEO can turn to an executive recruitment agency, say ‘we need one or more female NEDs’ and they’ll supply them. This is when a CEO can also think (to himself) – ‘if she doesn’t work out/fit in, we’ve only got her for three years then I can line up another one.’
Now I’m making a female NED appointment sound easy but I’m assuming NEDs, regardless of gender, with the requisite corporate skills, such as HR, governance, legal or secretarial. Fortunately there are plenty of serial NEDs (male and female) who offer such skills and whilst they might be experts at reading Board Minutes and Balance Sheets they are not the best judges of the culture of a business. That can only truly be felt from working on a full time basis within it. And for some time within it, to hear and be trusted with honest staff opinion.
So my point here is that whilst female NEDs will tick the diversity box (and are to be welcomed in the absence of others at the top) they are not as valuable, as I see it, as Executive Directors. Female Executive Directors need to be sponsored and groomed from within, then given a mandate to change a business from a mainly masculine to a female friendly employer (where appropriate – I am writing with the motor industry in mind).
Corporate nirvana, as I see it, is when a female takes a strategic position within the Board, usually as CEO. This is when a female business leader steers a naturally female friendly business using her personal perspective and experience, influencing all aspects of the business whilst accurately predicting and addressing women’s needs and expectations.
Of course many male-led businesses do this already, such as fashion and beauty businesses where the Boards are often full of female, but businesses in my industry, the UK motor industry, seem woefully slow to understand why they might need ANY let alone MORE female Directors.
So here are some good reasons guys – and you really need female Executive Directors to transform overly masculine cultures from within.
More female Executive Board Members needed
Female Board Directors are needed in the UK motor industry because…
+ They are missing from most motor industry Boardrooms
+ They show aspiring female employees a career path
+ They act as role models for ambitious graduate/apprentice recruits
+ Women are half the executive talent out there (but need encouraging to apply)
+ They represent the gender that influences the majority of purchases (80% of cars/aftersales)
+ Women bring consensus and a more collaborative style of working
+ Women add ethical and environmental values (that may well have made a REAL difference in VW’s 100% male Boardroom)
Some time ago, working in a consultant capacity, in my own right, I set out to measure the UK automotive industry in terms of the numbers of female Board members and executive positions.
My intention was not to name and shame but to publish a useful benchmark to influence behaviour and raise gender matters in this area.
Sadly I was unable to obtain the Board composition details I needed re: automotive manufacturers and/or dealership groups operating in the UK so I look forward to this previously ‘secret’ information becoming public when we can all see gender composition re Executive and NED Board appointments in this industry.
Needless to say, if our FTSE goals are now to achieve 35% women on Boards by 2020, it’d be a lot quicker to simply introduce female quotas. Which is my preferred strategy now Lord Davies – one I never thought I’d EVER support but do now after waiting for too long for gender and diversity to reach the top of big businesses in the automotive industry.