Among a number of European countries assessed by Heidrick & Struggles, Ireland reportedly hired the highest number of woman board members in 2019. Progress in other areas of diversity across Europe, however, was ‘disappointing’.
Leadership recruitment and consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles has published its latest Board Monitor report, which sheds light on the state of public-company board members across Europe in 2019, from progress in diversity to the types of experience companies are hiring for.
Modern boards, according to Heidrick & Struggles, are “expected to possess significant expertise in areas as specialised and diverse as digital transformation, cybersecurity, reputation management, sustainability and social media, to name a few”.
The report shows that most companies in the 15 countries assessed in the report, both in and outside of Europe, continued to recruit “more traditional directors”. These included individuals with previous leadership experience – on boards or as CEOs.
Diversity on Irish boards improved last year, according to the report. While the results showed that half (49pc) of new hires to European boards were women last year, 60pc of Ireland’s new board hires were women.
Ireland also did well in progressing its efforts towards sustainability, through seeking board members with experience in this field. It came in third under this category, beaten only by the Netherlands and France.
There was some progress made among the other countries, the report says, mainly around hiring more people with diverse skills and backgrounds. For example, women continue to make “significant gains” among new director hires. Efforts towards diversity across race, ethnicity, nationality and age, however, were all “disappointing”. Heidrick & Struggles said there was “little progress to report anywhere in the world” in these areas.
The highest-trending new skills in hires were in digital expertise, sustainability and cybersecurity. Traditional experience was still highly sought after, with financial expertise topping the list. Overall, the report shows that first-time directors are still less common than experienced ones and that prior CEO expertise is still the most sought-after experience in board hires.
Heidrick & Struggles’ recommendations for companies on the back of its latest report are: “A key first step is inclusion in its broadest sense. Many boards think of inclusion particularly in relation to their significant efforts to add diversity.
“But, particularly as they seek to oversee resetting their organisations for a radically uncertain world, boards will benefit most from ensuring that every board member is able to contribute fully, regardless of the board’s traditional norms or habits, varying personalities, inherent biases or for any other reason.”