In business, a woman's place is in the boardroom

Thu Aug 4, 2011 11:02am EDT
 
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By Jane Merriman

LONDON (Reuters) - If your company strives to have a board with a well-rounded view of the world, staffed with pragmatic directors who do their homework and aren't afraid to ask the tough questions, then it's probably looking for a few good women right now.

Companies across Europe are being urged to respond to pressure for greater gender diversity in top management, and those which have already embraced their high-flying female executives have discovered that mixed boards broaden perspective, focus more closely on performance and may reduce reckless, ego-driven behavior.

Some countries, such as Norway and Spain, have introduced quotas requiring a minimum level of female representation on boards. Former British trade minister and ex-Standard Chartered boss Mervyn Davies wants FTSE 100 companies to have 25 percent women on boards by 2015 and EU internal market commissioner Michel Barnier has put gender diversity for bank boards on his radar in the wake of the financial crisis.

But why the sudden push for more women?

The answer seems to be because a lot of research shows that companies with women directors or even just more diverse boards tend to do better than those with executive teams made up entirely of men.

"Women have a different perspective, which can sometimes lead to better decision-making," said Elin Hurvenes, founder and chair of the Professional Boards Forum, which she set up after the Norwegian government made its demand for more women directors on company boards.

Hurvenes said a lot of the chairmen who opposed the imposition of quotas in Norway are now pleased with the results.

"The point is not to focus on whether one gender is better than the other - it's the mixture that counts."   Continued...

 
<p>A woman walks past the Boeing World Headquarters office building in Chicago April 26, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer</p>