Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: Q&A with Melisa A. Denis – Partner, KPMG, LLP

Gerald Mathews Gender Diversity in the Boardroom, The Board Connection Leave a Comment

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.

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 Melisa A. Denis – Partner, KPMG, LLP and Co-founder of The Board Connection. Please follow this link to see all the responses in the series.

Forefront Magazine: The mission of TBC is to increase the number of women serving on public company boards as well as to develop and prepare women for public company board seats. Why do you aspire to serve on the board for a public company? 

MD Bio Picture April 2012Melisa Denis: Many women currently cannot serve on a board because their current employer does that allow board service or there is regulatory restrictions.  So they are planning and getting ready for the opportunity when those restrictions are removed.  I hope to leverage my 30 years of public accounting experience, working with some of the most influential global companies from around the world.  I will be able to use my network to open doors and opportunities for the company/board in which I might serve.

FM: Why is gender diversity important for corporate boards? 

MD: I believe that women bring a unique perspective to the boardroom, process decisions differently; not better, not worse, just differently.  Having a board with multiple perspectives can add to the effectiveness of that board.  Women tend to be collaborators and that collaboration is essential to the health of a board.

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? 

MD: Historically women have not served on boards because most boards were filled with current or former CEO’s.  That trend is changing but because there are fewer women in the traditional C-suite, there are fewer women board members.  Recruiters tend to go to the same pool of candidates each time a board seat comes available.  Companies are beginning to reach beyond the traditional C suite and seek alternative candidates.  So in addition to the pipeline, women must be in the same circles where they can be known.  Networking is the key to making that connection.

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?

MD: Only when you have a CEO and nominating committee that truly believes in diversification will there be a change.

FM: How has your work with TBC prepared you to sit on the board for a public company? What have you learned and how will that help you once you are able to serve in that type of role? 

MD: TBC helps prepare and connect women to the decision makes that can affect that change.  We help women know and understand the key aspects of board service but must be able to connect them to the decision makers.

Comments, thoughts, feedback?