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 Kelly Harris – Partner, Harris & Dickey, LLC and Board Treasurer for 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?
Kelly Harris: I have a passion for business and making a difference. I believe my background and experience working in large companies and creating a consulting firm that helps large companies manage change will be valuable to a board. I also believe that serving on a board will increase my knowledge and enhance my business experience.
FM: Why is gender diversity important for corporate boards?
KH: As the business world has become global, it requires diversity of thought and knowledge to remain competitive. Corporate boards need diversity in gender, race and culture to remain relevant in today’s ever changing business environment.
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?
KH: I believe the biggest reason that more women are not on corporate boards is because women have not been in the c-suite and at the CEO level until recently. Boards want CEO’s and the number of females that have held a CEO position is small. As more women achieve leadership positions and companies realize the value that women bring to the business world hopefully, we will see a change. I have not actively pursued a corporate board at this time. However, I am joining organizations and building a network to help develop those opportunities.
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?
KH: I believe that it will require a change in mindset and company/board culture. The board culture has traditionally consisted of CEOs and they believe that they need like kind on their boards. There are not a lot of women CEOs to choose from, to increase the number of women that serve companies are going to have to change the CEO requirement. Or, promote more women to the CEO level to increase the talent pool.
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?
KH: TBC has several important components Assessment, Training and Networking. Through TBC I have utilized a self-assessment tool that allowed me to analyze my skills and determine what I needed to enhance to be board ready. TBC has also taught me the business of serving on corporate boards, as well as enhanced my knowledge on governance. However, the most important is networking. Exposure to people who are on boards and board recruiters is very important. Building relationships with the board community is critical to a successful board search.
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