August 18, 2013

Great article – based on research – in the June 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. “Dysfunction in the Boardroom,” by Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell. 

The article focuses on women on boards – how it works, experiences of men and women on boards, and more.

If you’re the leader of a board, read the article. If you’re a board member, read the article. If you want to build a stronger more effective board, read the article.

In 2012, women occupied only 16.6% of Fortune 500 board seats. And according to Groysberg and Bell, that percentage has been “relatively flat, increasing by just two points” over the past 6 years.

That’s called a gender gap – and it’s such old news.

Moreover, the value of diversity / inclusion is documented over and over. Whether it’s women and men, people of color and whites, homosexuals and heterosexuals… Whatever. Experiencing life differently produces different insights and observations and ideas and that adds value – to businesses, to government, to life.

Enough already! There’s the business proposition for more women in every walk of life. There’s the  moral proposition for more women in every walk of life.

Wow. “Patience has started to wear thin,” say the authors. And especially in Europe. Several European countries have actually adopted legislation that requires more women on boards. Yippee. Good for the wise Europeans. Too bad the U.S. of A is is not so wise.

Yes, it’s called gender bias. Just read the article. What does the research show:

  • Women have to be more qualified than men to get on boards.
  • Boards say they like diversity, but they cannot quite figure out how to do it.
  • Women’s experiences on boards is different than what male board members think.

And, no surprise, talented board members alone don’t create great boards. “Boards need formal processes and cultures that leverage each individual member’s contribution as well as the directors’ collective intellect.” And the female talent are not quite included quite well enough.

Share this article with your governance committee. Talk about the research findings with your board. Ask the women on your board how they feel. Ask the men on your board what they observe.

And fix this. Fix it now. Enough already!

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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