When it comes to gender diversity, too many boards still look like this in 2015 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Corporate boards have historically been comprised mainly of men. However, a number of countries have begun imposing quotas for the number of women on the boards of publicly traded or state-owned companies — an idea that is now being considered as a European Union-wide rule. This is likely to compel businesses elsewhere in the world, including Pakistan, to consider the gender diversity of their own corporate boards.
According to the International Finance Corporation, just 13 percent of 303 companies surveyed in Pakistan in 2010 had more than one woman director — a sample that included publicly listed companies, large family-owned firms, and private, unlisted companies.
Women comprise the majority of world’s population, are heads of households, have outpaced their male peers in educational attainment and contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of their families, communities, and countries.
Yet, for all of these advances, women in leadership position are still a minority. According to the latest estimates, women comprise just 20.2 percent of corporate board members of Fortune 500 companies, representing a slight increase over previous years. And just 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are headed by female CEOs. In terms of political leadership, the United Nations estimates that women hold just 22 percent of parliament seats globally. Currently, there are 10 female heads of state and 14 heads of government among the 195 UN member states. Finally, women hold only 17 percent of posts globally at the ministerial level, mainly in the education and health sectors.
Much has been written about how women could overcome the myriad of obstacles that stand in their way to personal and professional success. Whether it’s to take a seat at the table, find a mentor, or a sponsor and lean-in, these techniques fall short of naming the real reason women are shut out of professional opportunities in many societies.
The simple answer is that women must work within the confines of rules and regulations that were institutionalized without their input. When women have agency in their personal and professional lives, they have the ability to change norms, rules and regulations and to fully participate in decision-making processes in the government, public and private sectors.
Inclusive and participatory decision-making is at the heart of democratic governance and yields better social, political and economic outcomes. Economic empowerment is one of the most important means of attaining global gender parity and should be a central point of discussion. When women become breadwinners, they have real decision-making power within their families and communities. Women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the workforce are avenues for their political participation and ability to influence how rules are made and laws passed.
The women’s empowerment initiative Lean In made headlines recently by partnering with Getty Images to produce “a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them.”
Lean In was launched by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg with the publication of a book by the same name encouraging women to become more ambitious and make the best use of their opportunities. Among other things, the organization hopes to see more women running companies and serving on corporate boards — which, despite the decades of progress women have made in the workplace, remains shockingly rare.
Only one in ten board members worldwide are women, and just 4.6 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs. While women now make up 40-50 percent of the workforce in many countries, the upper echelons of the business world are still overwhelming male-dominated.
By Hyeji Kim
Any corporate compliance program needs a strong relationship between the board of directors and the compliance and ethics officer in order to be effective. In 2010, the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) conducted a study which showed that the relationship between the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officers (CECOs) and boards of directors was much weaker than it should be. In 2013, SCCE conducted the study again to see if there were any changes.
The recently published 2013 study, based on over 600 responses from compliance and ethic professionals in the SCCE and HCCA database, seems to be on a much brighter note with generally positive findings.
Photo from www.business-ethics.com
In corporate governance, much attention is often devoted to ensuring that boards are truly representative of their shareholders. Of course, having independent directors and transparent voting procedures is important. Securing the right of women to have a say in how companies are governed is equally important, yet often overlooked.
According to the research by Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI) – women representation on the boards of companies around the world remains uneven. While a large number of companies include women on their boards in some of the major OECD economies (Norway – 100 percent of companies surveyed by CWDI have women on boards, United States – 87 percent, Germany 82 percent, UK – 75 percent) many other countries lag far behind. Only 33 percent of surveyed companies in Russia, 30 percent in Portugal and Italy, 27 percent in India, and 16 percent in Japan have women on their boards.