While women now make up half of the world’s workforce, they hold just 28.4% of the Russell 3000 company board seats, according to 50/50 Women on Boards™.
And while this has increased from 2021 to 2022 by 1.7%, figures are beginning to drop. In fact, women joining boards continued to slip in Q4 2022 to 36% and worse, the percentage of women joining boards in 2022 was 39% — significantly lower than in 2019 and 2021.
If the world’s workforce was to reach gender parity by the end of 2023, the percentage of women joining boards each year must surpass 50%. In this article, we take a look at the importance of having female leaders and how you can get more women on your board.
Why is it important to get more women on boards in 2023?
Aside from gender equality, having females on your board increases your competitive advantage. With women constituting over half of the workforce, companies that do not tap into their potential risk losing a competitive advantage in the face of intense rivalry.
Greater diversity also helps companies to establish stronger connections with stakeholders like customers, employees and communities. Research from McKinsey & Company highlights that gender-diverse boards lead to improved returns on equity, sales and invested capital.
Furthermore, increasing women’s representation on the board is essential for effective corporate governance. A diverse board generates fresh and inclusive ideas, avoiding the ‘group think’ mentality that may hinder company performance. With diverse perspectives, boards can better implement innovative and high-performing strategies.
By empowering women in leadership roles, more opportunities for career progression and mentorship can be created, inspiring the next generation of female leaders.
How can you help to get more talented women on your board?
The claim that a lack of qualified female candidates hinders increasing board diversity is unfounded. In fact, statistics show that there’s a substantial pool of qualified women in executive and leadership roles across various industries. Knowing this, agp is here to help you get these talented women on your board.
Set measurable diversity targets to stick to
The first step in increasing female representation on the board is to set realistic and measurable targets. Firstly, assess your current board’s diversity and establish specific, time-bound goals for increasing the number of female board members.
You should then look to implement effective initiatives to attract, retain and promote talented women within the organisation, identifying potential board candidates. To help you, always engage executive search firms, like agp, who prioritise gender diversity in their candidate selection process.
If you’re not looking to recruit anyone new, consider mentoring and sponsoring high-potential women within your company to prepare them for board roles.
Finally, monitor progress regularly, ensuring accountability, and adjust strategies as needed to achieve targets. By setting measurable objectives and implementing supportive actions, companies can actively promote gender diversity on their boards, driving better decision-making and organisational performance.
Ensure your recruitment process embraces diversity and inclusivity
Embracing diversity and inclusivity in the workplace should be a mentality shared by your entire organisation. So when it comes to your recruitment efforts, this should be at the heart of everything you do.
At a minimum, you must review and revise job descriptions to focus on skills and qualifications rather than gender-specific language that will deter female candidates. Alternatively, you should collaborate with executive search firms that actively prioritise diverse candidate pools. At agp, we’re committed to creating an inclusive and unbiased interview process where all candidates are assessed fairly based on their merits.
Company owners and CEOs should also find the time to educate their employees, making time to implement training programs to raise awareness about unconscious bias and promote diversity among decision-makers.
By fostering an inclusive recruitment approach, organisations can attract and select the best-suited candidates, including more talented women, to contribute to the growing success of a company.
Connect with female board directors through your own network
To attract more female board members to your company, you really do not have to look far. In fact, you should proactively connect with female board directors through your network.
This could include attending conferences, industry events, and seminars dedicated to promoting diversity and women in leadership roles. Or, engage in mentorship programmes to establish relationships with experienced female leaders who may be potential board candidates.
You could also show your commitment to gender diversity by actively seeking recommendations and referrals for capable female candidates from your network. By connecting with female board directors, you expand your talent pool, fostering a more diverse and inclusive boardroom. This not only enhances decision-making, but also brings varied perspectives that drive innovation and organisational success.
Maintain an active pipeline of female candidates
To increase the presence of talented women on your board, maintaining an active pipeline of female candidates is vital. Start by promoting diversity within your organisation, offering leadership development programmes and mentorship opportunities for women to cultivate their skills.
You should always be actively seeking opportunities for women to join your board, whether that be through partnering with an executive search firm or encouraging board members to advocate for gender diversity and suggest potential female candidates.
Regularly reviewing the pipeline to assess progress and identify areas for improvement is also highly encouraged. By maintaining an active pipeline of female candidates, you ensure a continuous pool of talented women, increasing the likelihood of attracting capable female leaders to contribute their expertise and perspectives to your board.
Sponsor qualified female candidates
If you have the resources as a company, sponsoring high-potential female candidates is a powerful approach. Actively support and advocate for women with the potential to serve on the board, both internally within your organisation and externally.
One way to do this is to provide your sponsors with opportunities to showcase their skills and expertise through high-profile projects or assignments. Or, offer guidance, mentorship, and professional development to help them excel in their careers and build the necessary skills for board roles.
As a sponsor, use your influence and network to connect them with relevant opportunities and introduce them to influential individuals within your industry. By sponsoring qualified female candidates, you actively contribute to breaking down barriers and promoting gender diversity in the boardroom.
Offer business coaching and mentoring for women
Offering business coaching and mentoring for women is an effective way to increase their representation on your board. At agp, we provide tailored coaching programmes that focus on leadership development, strategic thinking and decision-making skills for high-potential females.
Our mentorship programmes empower women with the tools, confidence and networking opportunities needed to excel in leadership roles. We’re dedicated to creating a culture that promotes and encourages women to pursue board roles, providing resources and training to help them navigate challenges in the corporate world.
By investing in business coaching and mentoring for women, organisations foster a pipeline of capable female candidates, enabling them to gain the necessary skills and drive to excel in board roles.
Discuss potential structural changes with your board colleagues
You could also look internally at your current board, engaging in open discussions about potential structural changes with your board colleagues. Of course, encourage a proactive and inclusive dialogue to address gender diversity on the board, exploring and implementing strategies for attracting and retaining female candidates.
To take this further, organisations should consider establishing term limits for board members to create regular opportunities for board refreshment and the inclusion of new talent. If this isn’t feasible, frequently review recruitment policies to prioritise gender diversity and seek qualified female candidates for vacant seats.
By fostering these discussions and actively promoting structural changes, you contribute to creating a more inclusive and diverse boardroom that benefits the entire company.
How can agp help make your board more diverse?
Agp is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace and is here to help you enrich your board, using our extensive network and expertise in executive search and leadership development.
We specialise in identifying and attracting top talent, including qualified female candidates for board roles. Through tailored search strategies, we source and present to you a diverse range of candidates with the skills and expertise to contribute effectively to your board.
At agp, we offer executive board performance assessments, helping you to identify the current effectiveness and how you can deliver business success. If it’s a more diverse team you need, we have a talented team of individuals who can deliver business coaching for women, ensuring you have the best possible candidates to take on leadership roles.
Increasing gender diversity on boards is a strategic imperative for organisations seeking to thrive in the modern business landscape. Embracing inclusive recruitment practices, fostering talent pipelines, and providing coaching and mentorship opportunities for women are key steps in this. Such positive action will ensure more women can contribute their valuable perspectives and expertise at the boardroom level, ultimately driving overall business success.