The rationale for including more women on boards, management

Robert Mandeya

GENDER mainstreaming programmes are proliferating worldwide. Although mainstreaming is a relatively recent development, it has not been clearly articulated to the end beneficiaries, who in this case are the public and private institutions.

While the uptake of this development has been more rapid at government public institution level, the same cannot be said about the private or corporate organisations. For many in the private sector, the gender equality and equity issue has remained a political issue with little or no bearing on business management.

The world over in general and Africa in particular, gender mainstreaming is still a hotly contested concept and yet it is a development whose implication to business cannot be ignored any longer.

Arguably, the popularity of gender mainstreaming reflects the appropriateness with which it suits a market-driven, neo-liberal emphasis on women’s “productive” role and their transformative potential to management and business.

Mainstreaming gender in organisational human resource policies, therefore, is no longer just an affirmative requirement to be fulfilled but a strategic business imperative aimed at turning around the organisation’s productivity and development.I will in this instalment unpack the need for more women on boards.

Women as stakeholders

Your stakeholders—including employees, investors and customers—include women. How better to understand these constituencies than by representing them at the top of the organisational hierarchy.

Having women in the boardroom sends the message that the company is accessible, inclusive and open to innovation. This is very positive in the marketplace and motivating for employees.

Women as consumers

It is a given that women have more purchasing traits than man and, if this can be exploited, it will drive global economic recovery.If your company wants to be included in women’s purchasing behaviour what is better than to understand it from their own perspective at decision making level.

The World Bank has predicted that women’s earning power reached US$18 trillion by 2019. Note: this is now a historical figure. Let us add to it: back in 2009 Harvard Business Review stated: Women control about US$20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as US$28 trillion after every five years.

Women driving social web

The driving force behind the social web is women. Scores of studies have shown that women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites. According to Nielsen, mobile social network usage is 55% female. So, to best comprehend and master this pervasive and growing phenomenon, ask a woman.

Unique leadership styles

According to the American Psychological Association, a woman’s leadership style is more akin to mentoring and coaching, while a man’s style is centred around command-and-control.

Each of these styles has their advantages and may be appropriate at certain times and not at others. The most astute companies will seek to benefit from a variety of approaches.

Furthermore, women tend to be more inclusive, collaborative than men and are inquisitive by nature. Ram Charan, in his best-selling book Boards That Deliver concludes that progressive boards with a sizable representation of women have lively debates and challenge each other directly without breaking the harmony of the group.

Agility

Women tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity than men, are more holistic in their thinking and tend to be more process oriented than men.
According to 2010 Harvard Business Review blog by Scott Anthony: “It’s pretty clear that tomorrow’s leaders are going to face the ‘new normal’ of constant change.

It is no longer enough to be an operator that can master today’s complexity. You have to be prepared to deal with tomorrow’s complexity, ‘black swan’ events, and sudden shifts in the basis of competition in your industry, competitors springing up around the globe, and more.

Never has the ability to deal with uncertainty been more important.

Smashing the glass ceiling

Numerous studies have shown that companies that smash the “glass ceiling” increase profits as a result. Companies with more than three women on their board have a higher return on investment.

As a way forward, men and women in organisations should become partners in defining, working for, and achieving goals that benefit all. Such a partnership is possible and must be attempted if organisations are to achieve their social, economic and political frameworks.

This approach will help them reach the goals of a good, dynamic, and fruitful operational business entity.A gender inclusive approach to business would ensure that anyone can be a leader and has the capacity to contribute meaningfully to the success of the organisation.

Given the influx of women into organisations and the resultant increase in their managerial ranks the need for mainstreaming gender has never been more compelling.

This is so, because both the potential for miscommunication and the need to be sensitive to the nuances of linguistic messages and other forms of communication in the organisation has become more complex.

A renewed appreciation of a gendered language and communication skills by managers has become a necessity if they are to communicate effectively in order to achieve organisational goals of increased productivity and in creating an enduring brand tribe.

Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of LiRD. — robert@lird.co.zw/www.lird.co.zw.

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