Without more women on boards, businesses will flounder

18 Oct 2016

Pictured from left: Michelle Cullen from Accenture, Lauren States from Webster Bank, Raju Narisetti from Univision and Julie Sinnamon from Enterprise Ireland

Different voices and diversity on boards are the key to businesses succeeding in the 21st century, according to a high-powered panel at Inspirefest 2016.

The panel was chaired by Michelle Cullen, chief leadership and HR officer at Accenture, and it discussed the topic of greater female participation on boards of companies.

Panelists included Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland; Raju Narisetti, News Corp SVP and new CEO of Univision; and Lauren States, Harvard Fellow and board member of Webster Bank.

‘You need different voices at the table for effectiveness, but also for competitiveness’

Future Human

Sinnamon revealed that female participation in leadership teams of Irish companies had grown from 7pc in 2011 to 22pc last year.

“In 2011, 7pc of start-ups had a female on the leadership team and this was not much out of line with international trends,” Sinnamon explained.

She said that a strong focus was applied where issues, such as lack of confidence and females being more impacted by role models than men, were worked on.

“Last year, our figures were [that] 22pc of start-ups had females on leadership teams. This is a significant increase and [is] encouraging, and we are trying to get to the magic 50-50 figure.”

Should there be a need for quotas to get more women on boards?

Narisetti predicted that the low level of female participation on boards as an issue is only going to get more and more amplified.

He said that while putting quotas in place might sound proscriptive, the culture needs to change.

“In 2013, it became law in India that every public company has to have one woman director and every day that they didn’t, they would get fined. The moment the rule came in, every public company in India had a female board member.

“Now, we have a situation where companies have at least two. Sometimes it’s not bad to be heavy-handed. But the time to convince CEOs what is good for them [has] passed. If they don’t get it by now, the time has passed.”

Narisetti said that in his 30-year career, he has had 13 bosses – six of whom were women.

“Most of us have key performance indicators on hiring. For me, the best KPI is where women who have worked for me have gone on to bigger and better things. You want people to go on to do better things because it is a credit to you even when they no longer work for you.”

States warned that, without greater female participation on boards, businesses are missing out on opportunities to innovate.

“You need different voices at the table for effectiveness, but also for competitiveness,” she said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years