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How to Create an Equal Gender Boardroom

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.

March 8, 2020

International Women’s Day 2020, #EachForEqual

Image Source: #EqualEverywhere

As we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020 with its #EachForEqual campaign, I am discouraged to realize that not much has changed over the years. Progress on gender equality on boards has been painfully slow. It’s 2020 and yet women are not equal to men in board leadership. This despite the fact that the business case for equality for women on boards has long been made.

Numbers Speak For Themselves

Global nonprofit Catalyst reports that men still overwhelmingly dominate corporate boards. In 2018, it disclosed that women only held 24% of S&P 500 board seats and only 22.5% of Fortune 500 board seats.

Same with nonprofit boards. According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, women only comprise 43% of the board. That number drops down to 33% if the nonprofit has revenues of at least $25 million. The writing on the wall is clear. “The richer the organization, the less gender diversified its leadership”, it observed.

Why are we not moving fast enough on gender equality? The Canadian government’s Women on Board report offers some underlying reasons:

 
Predominantly male leadership networks that choose candidates like themselves
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Inadequate information about availability of qualified women candidates
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Lack of focus on presenting talented female candidates by executive search firms
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Lack of an executive-level commitment to gender diversity
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Women lack leadership networks which restrict their opportunities for senior decision-making roles, and
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Women lack role models that inspire them to pursue high-level board positions.
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Why Have More Women on Boards Anyway?

Some of you may be asking: Why should we have more women on boards anyway? And that’s a fair question.

Harvard Business Review answers this question pointedly:

“Experts believe that companies with women directors deal more effectively with risk. Not only do they better address the concerns of customers, employees, shareholders, and the local community, but also, they tend to focus on long-term priorities. Women directors are likely to be more in tune with women’s needs than men, which helps develop successful products and services.”

Call to Action: Let’s Build A Gender Equal Boardroom

The IWD 2020 celebration calls us to take urgent action through its #EachforEqual campaign. Action that will move the needle faster on gender equal boardrooms. Action that will support women who take on board roles in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors.

Some examples of what each of us can do to achieve a gender equal boardroom include:

 
Regularly appoint women to boards
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Measure and report on gender parity gaps
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Keep gender on the agenda
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Call it out when women are excluded
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Monitor the gender pay gap
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Call for diverse candidate shortlists, and
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Embrace inclusive leadership
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So let’s all be #EachforEqual as we each take action to create a gender equal boardroom. As the IWD 2020 Campaign so eloquently declared:

"Equality is not a women's issue, it's a business issue."

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