Maile Carnegie, Google Australia Director, Amy Hood, CFO at Microsoft, Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo, Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook… Progress has been achieved in corporate governance diversity practices and we can notice cracks in the glass ceiling but still, in 2013, women only account for 10.5% of board seats in the world(1).
Gender equality is a worldwide issue and is now becoming a priority for companies and their Boards. Recent research has shown that companies with more women in charge survived the 2008 financial crisis better: concerning French companies with a highly feminized management, at least 38%, declined less than the CAC 40… Hermès was the only large company whose share price rose and it has the second largest feminized management (55%). On the contrary, companies with mainly male management recorded the highest declines…(2)
Having more women on Boards seems to in a way protect companies from the crisis mostly because women behave differently to men, according to gender studies, women tend to take fewer risks and focus on long term priorities. The presence of just one woman as director can reduce the risks of going bankrupt by 20%!
Greater female representation on Boards also leads to increase the company’s performance. Boards with high female representation experience a 53% higher return on equity, a 66% higher return on invested capital and a 42% higher return on sales(3).
The close relationship between corporate performance and female directors proves that having “women on the Board is no longer just the right thing but also the smart thing to do” as said by Chris Bart, McMaster University business professor.
Women take decisions differently than men by reviewing more factors and competing interests to make the decisions fairer whereas men base their decisions on rules and traditions. Women directors will also answer in a better way to the needs and expectations of their female customers. This is significant since women account for 85% of purchasing decisions. They also bring value to the boardroom by expanding the content of discussions, raising new perspectives, asking more questions and promoting collaboration.
Studies show that one woman alone can make important contributions and bring value to Boards, adding a second woman to a Board helps but it takes the presence of at least three women to change boardroom dynamics and enhances everyday governance(4).
(1) GMI Ratings’ Women on Boards Survey
(2) Michel Ferrary : financial times
(3) Joy et al., 2007
(4) Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance