Only 19% of corporate board of directors seats are filled by women. With our friends at The Board Connection, we asked our executive network why it’s important to increase this number and how to do it.
Editor’s Note: According to a recent study by our friends at The Board Connection, only 19% of corporate board of directors seats are filled by women. This is an improvement from years past, but corporations have significant room for improvement when it comes to gender diversity in the boardroom. 7% still have no female board members. For additional statistics and insight, we encourage you to read the conclusions of the study on The Board Connection website.
We sought out executives who were either serving on corporate boards or aspire to do so, to create discussion around this topic. This Q&A is with Jo Ann Herold – Global Chief Marketing Officer @ Interface, Inc. Please follow this link to see all the responses in the series.
Forefront Magazine: The mission of TBC is to develop and prepare women for public company board seats. Why do you aspire to serve on the board for a public company?
Jo Ann Herold: The opportunity to impart the learnings that I have acquired over my career, in various organizations, is a primary motivation for wanting to serve. Particularly as Interface has some incredibly unique intelligence to pass into other organizations. The company is very much invested in its sustainability mission which informs every aspect of the business. While this might seem audacious in the carpet industry, which was at one time an especially “brown” business, we have become a model in the design and manufacturing industries for how ‘doing the right thing’ can benefit the bottom line as well as the world at large.
Just ten years ago, the idea of sustainable manufacturing was little more than a feel-good marketing opportunity to most manufacturers and retailers, and we are proud that today it is more of an imperative. How we share not just product but process and inspiration both internally and externally – which I oversee- could be impactful and inspirational to others.
This philosophy extends beyond the manufacturing process – in fact we have just released a study revealing the benefits of biophillic design (the practice of incorporating nature and natural elements and ideals in built environments) in the workplace. By adhering to this type of design ethos in our offices alone, there are billions of dollars to be saved in terms of workplace productivity. It’s an extraordinary benefit to the employers, and the architecture and design communities that create these spaces.
In fact we have sponsored a forum for the sharing of this knowledge, humanspaces.com, which is very much about this phenomenon and the facts and cases behind it. This is precisely the type of fact-based knowledge I’d enjoy sharing with other large organizations.
FM: Why is gender diversity important for corporate boards?
JAH: Just as sustainability was a relatively new topic 10-20 years ago, something that needed illumination, so too is this idea of diversity on corporate boards. We hope that 5 -10 years from now it will not be a topic of contention or conversation at all but rather a norm. The tipping point is within reach.
Diversity benefits us in all things, as we see in nature, too. The more varied insight and experience board members bring to the table, all the better for the group to make informed, responsible decisions that take all stakeholders into account.
FM: What is the biggest reason you believe that there are not more women on corporate boards? Have you explored or pursued any corporate board opportunities?
JAH: It’s possible that the business world at large still has not fully taken a step back to ask the question – Have the intelligence, insights and backgrounds gathered collectively reflect the make-up of their consumer public or the community at large? If boards were asking this question, it would be clear that giving the female consumer a voice among them was sound business practice.
FM: Even though progress is being made how can further steps be taken to address board gender diversity? Does this require a change in mindset? A change in company/board culture?
JAH: The reality is that this issue is 90% evolution and 10% revolution. By asking the questions and thinking more globally when an opening or seat is made available, we should progress. The conversation is important and as we assume that some of our nation’s most intelligent business leaders are on current boards, we can certainly hope that they take the matters of diversity into consideration when electing their next peer.
FM: What type of resources or assistance would you like to receive that might prepare you to serve on a corporate board
JAH: The most necessary resource to receive in preparing to serve on an individual board is immersion – an understanding of the industry, its historical data, and the ideals of fellow board members. At the end of the day, we are people working together and the quicker we can think about the humanity of our peers, our consumers and the world at large the quicker we can get this topic of diversity onto the
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