Blog : BOARD TALK
|Posted on June 16, 2011 at 8:20 PM|
In this blog it's beginning to feel as if I'm frequently writing things in capital letters on a blackboard. But hey - sometimes you need to do that. Simplification is essential to progress.
By 'simplification' I mean less jargon, less consultant-speak, more human examples to illustrate grand ideas, and generally more human connection - beyond business titles in plcs, all the way to the boardroom.
So I would like to recommend that everyone read a new book by Peninah Thomson (with Tom Lloyd) called 'Women & the New Business Leadership' ( published by palgrave macmillan) I meant to flag this some time ago, as I've had a proof copy - but there has been so much else to say in this space.
(I said I would give it six months to establish a clear independent 'voice' here, and it has only been just over four - but this blog is heading for 2000 hits in that time from almost 50 countries, and takes a lot of time.......... so I'm beginning to think about sponsorship. Form an orderly queue, please.)
The book is excellent in the way it brings together good thinking on diversity and governance with real-life examples of experiences, and what needs to be done on a mega-scale by companies to break the cycle of women not being appointed to boards because they have no board experience.
Chapter Two, engagingly called 'The new world' has 'conversations with mentors', almost all of whom are men . But we need them, ladies, and should be delighted that they are there, at the top at chairman level, sounding off on our behalf, and that of UK plc.
Having talked to a fair number of women in the UK who are NEDs, or aspire to be NEDs, or have had so many NED roles they are not sure what the 'gender' fuss is about, I think I can safely generalise that women tend to be bad at self-promotion. Ms Thomson certainly is, for all the good work that she has done with the FTSE-100 cross-company mentoring programme, this book has not been visible enough.
I suspect it is because of that very female trait - she cares a huge amount about her subject and making change happen on a one-to-one basis, but driving it forward as a commercial undertaking is something else altogether. I hope that is about to change.
Read the book, and recognise that maybe there is, indeed, a 'new world' which has enough leading chairmen in it to make a big difference to the composition of boards at UK plc. There has been movement since the review led by Lord Davies, and we now need it to gather a lot more momentum.
To tempt you to buy/read the book, here's a snippet, one of many - this is John Gildersleeve, deputy chairman Carphone Warehouse plc : "Women think more deeply about other people than men. I don't want to sound condescending or in any way critical, but I think bearing children makes a difference. It is an experience of which men have no understanding. Successful women who have also had children have been able to manage that emotional responsibility alongside their careers. It is pretty impressive. Men broadly say 'I work, I provide, you look after.' Modern man's a bit different now, but responsibilities are still not equally shared.'"
Three W00ts for Mr Gildersleeve. I'll even give him a 'hear, hear.'
Amazingly, as the book shows, he is not alone in thinking like this at the top of UK plc. It's just that we like things to move by consensus, and let's face it, there is a small 'rump' of chairmen who need to change their thinking, or move on to retirement. Mr Gildersleeve, by the way, is 61, if I have my facts right. So he's a good person to set an example.
But in my view, diversity in the boardroom needs to be on so many levels, and not only gender. So it's also good to note that Middlesex University has been working on a report on age diversity in the workforce. It's part of the Big Ideas For The Future Report - and while I shudder at the Capitals, I applaud the thinking behind it.