Parmi Natesan, Executive: Corporate Governance on behalf of the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) has become a member of the 30% Club Steering Committee. Founded in Britain in 2010, and active in South Africa since 2014, the 30% Club aims to achieve a minimum of 30 percent female representation on the boards of listed companies. The Club seeks to harness the influence of influential board members to make gender diversity a strategic initiative.
“The 30% Club does not believe that mandatory quotas are the right approach—we focus on catalysing sustainable change through persuasion, and by demonstrating the value that diversity can bring to the boardroom,” says Colleen Larsen CE of Business Engage, a consultancy focused on gender mainstreaming and the custodian of the 30% Club in Southern Africa. “Our approach is a positive one, and it is working.”
Larsen says that the drive for gender parity on boards is underpinned by companies’ need to access the best talent; actively recruiting female directors ensures a deeper, broader talent pool for them. Having solid female representation on the board also means that companies are better equipped to relate to the broader stakeholder groups that are a feature of the business world now.
Research by McKinsey shows that better gender balance on boards brings companies closer to their employees, shareholders and stakeholders. In fact, a European Commission study suggests that 58 percent of companies that have implemented diversity programmes have realised better employee motivation, while 57 percent have improved customer satisfaction and 69 percent have noted an improved brand image. Women are the driving force behind more than 70 percent of purchasing decisions.
The McKinsey research has also established a correlation between a certain level of gender diversity and financial performance.
The name of the Club alludes to the presumed critical mass required to change boardroom culture and dynamics, and to begin achieving the benefits of gender diversity.
“One big challenge is that board appointments still tend to be made from within the current board members’ own networks, so a conscious effort has to be made to open up the net and look beyond the ‘old boys’ network’ to find aspiring female candidates,” Natesan says. “The other side of the coin is that those women need to be properly equipped to deliver value on boards and that’s where the IoDSA plays a big role. Our director development programmes, based on our Director Competency Framework, and our Chartered Director (SA) designation, offer prospective female directors a way to demonstrate their competence for boardroom positions. Membership of the IoDSA also provides the invaluable opportunity for networking with like-minded senior business leaders as well as the ability to access the latest governance thought leadership in order to keep up to date with date with developments affecting directorship.”