Do We Really Need to PUSH Women Onto Corporate Boards in Australia?
According to Rhondalynn Korolak, business acceleration expert and author of Financial Foreplay – Whip Your Business Into Shape and Take Home More Cash, “the biggest thing holding Australian businesses back right now is not the global financial crisis… it’s the ‘me too’ syndrome. there is an ingrained corporate culture where the leaders and directors want to hire others that are ‘like them’. So if your Board is made up largely of white, middle aged Anglo Saxon males, then that is who will tend to get the new board appointments too.” There is also a strong hint of nepotism – hiring mates that they know vs. recruiting from the wider talent pool.
Most directors on Australian boards are of a certain age, background and educational/work pedigree. There is little diversity at all in terms of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, education and international work experience. Says Korolak, “if there are 10 directors sitting around the table and 9 of them are approaching the issues from the exact same perspective and paradigm (because they have the same background and experience), then 9 of them should not be there. It’s that simple.” If you want to create a culture of innovation and creativity, you cannot have 10 black hats (to use the famous analogy from Edward de Bono) sitting around the boardroom table.
It is in times of desperation or perspiration that real change happens. This global financial crisis may be exactly what the doctor ordered – to initiate some real, progressive change around here. We cannot continue to do what we have always done. For many businesses, that is clearly not working any more.
A change in global financial circumstances necessitates a demand for innovation, improved customer service and sophistication. This may in fact create more PULL to get women into Board positions than any federal legislation designed to PUSH women there. There can be no doubt that women are good communicators and skilful at developing relationships. In this next decade I believe we will see companies steer away from boards comprised largely of white, middle aged Anglo Saxon men and more towards a unique mix of qualified candidates who contribute synergistically through their diversity.