Want a better board? Recruit more women directors

Participants at the 2015 Women Board Directors Development Program

Participants at the 2015 Women Board Directors Development Program

Now that more than 20 countries have adopted quotas for women on corporate boards, the number of companies with women directors is growing worldwide. To identify the impact that women directors make on boards, Foster adjunct professor Cate Goethals and global management consultant Susan Bloch recently completed the Better Boards Project, an international study of more than 100 board members.

The study builds on research by Credit Suisse, McKinsey, and Catalyst that concluded public companies with women directors outperformed all-male boards on several financial dimensions, including stock price, return on equity, and better average growth. For the Better Boards Project, Goethals and Bloch explored the distinctive qualities that women directors brought to the table and the relationship between board effectiveness and women’s contributions.

Study highlights
The directors interviewed overwhelmingly believe that the contribution of women makes majority-male boards more effective. Specifically:

  • Women provide the broad diversity of perspective critical to robust governance practice
  • Female directors are more likely to fully explore the implications of decisions through their implementation stage and insist upon discussing standards of ethics and accountability
  • Women are more likely to build relationships among board members and with management
  • They ask more and different questions to fuel deeper discussions and better-considered decisions
  • Women are more likely to probe the human dimensions of policies—their effects on employees, customers, and other women
  • Inside the boardroom, female directors are generally more collaborative, listening carefully and facilitating contributions from others

Many directors expressed enthusiasm for bringing more of the right women onto their boards, but noted challenges locating qualified candidates.

Creating a pathway for potential women board members
Several countries, including Norway, France, India, and the United Arab Emirates, have passed legislation mandating a percentage of women serving on public boards. Still, there are remarkably few female directors—about 11 percent of all board members around the world and markedly less in some countries and sectors.

The number of women on public boards is closer to 20 percent in the U.S., and growing as companies actively seek qualified women directors. The percentage of new female nominees to S&P 500 directorships has doubled in the last seven years to 30 percent—almost one in three new board members is a woman. The primary problem boards face is locating and nominating eligible women directors.

To respond to this recruitment gap, Goethals, Foster market researcher Andrea Bowers, and Executive Education staff Lisa Loucks and Ann Koziol launched a new program to help prepare talented professional women for board service. The Women Board Directors Development Program will be offered June 18-19 at the Foster School of Business.

The program will feature sitting directors Colleen Brown (American Apparel, Newport Board Group), Connie Collingsworth (Premera Blue Cross, Banner Corporation), and Betsy Berkeimer Credaire, (Women Corporate Directors, Los Angeles/Orange County, author of “The Board Game”) joining Goethals to share their personal board experiences.

The Women Board Directors Development Program will help participants:

  • Deepen knowledge of board roles and responsibilities, including financial reporting, corporate strategy, CEO performance, and regulatory compliance
  • Understand the best professional pathways to influential boards
  • Develop a detailed personal action plan for securing the right board seat and advancing board service
  • Learn proven techniques for becoming known to nominating committees
  • Understand the board interview and onboarding process
  • Hear from sitting board members how they found their best voice at the table

For more information and to register, visit www.foster.uw.edu/women-on-boards

For more information about the Better Boards Project, visit http://www.betterboardsproject.com/ or contact Cate Goethals.