Disparity over board diversity

Oct 14, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Jeff Benjamin

Male and female members of corporate boards generally are aligned on most issues — but not matters related to board diversity.

A new study based on a survey of more than 1,000 directors of corporate boards worldwide found that while gender has little impact on how members approach a number of topics, a divergence emerges on diversity.

“We see a remarkable consensus among men and women directors globally regarding the top 2012 political issues and the threat of increased regulation in this turbulent economy,” said Susan Stautberg, co-founder and co-chairwoman of WomenCorporateDirectors, a global organization with more than 1,600 members. “But there is far less agreement between men and women in the area of board diversity.”

The research found that women think that board leaders must actively work to bring more women onto boards, while men see the lack of diversity as a “pipeline issue.”

When asked to rank the most effective ways to build diverse boards, female directors listed “board leadership serving as champions of board diversity” as the No. 1 factor.

Men ranked leadership guidance equally with “developing a pipeline through director advocacy, mentorship and training.”

The distinction, said WCD co-chairwoman Henrietta Holsman Fore, is that women place responsibility for diversity squarely on the board.

“Women view the board chairs, lead directors and nominating- committee chairs as the real change agents,” she said.

As for quotas, 51% of female respondents said they are an effective tool for increasing diversity in the boardroom, compared with just 25% of men.

The research was conducted by WomenCorporateDirectors in partnership with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., an executive research and consulting firm.


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