Leaders Creating Leaders on UK Boards

Companies with better gender equity on their boards tend to do better. Sometimes, however, boards don’t know where to look. I recently encountered two leaders who help them.

 When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, I was put in contact with two people who exemplify the word “leader” in its purest sense.  They do not work for a large organization; in fact, they are entrepreneurs working out of their proverbial garages.  But their ability to envision a future, get others on board with it, and make it happen, all under conditions of uncertainty with no small amount of business and personal risk, make them fully fledged exemplars of the Leadership Code. 


I am talking about Elin Hurvenes and Jane Scott founder and UK Director (respectively) of the Professional Boards Forum .  This organization is the brainchild of Elin, created in Norway in 2002 to counter the charge from an outraged business community that qualified women did not exist for public boards, full stop.  Why outraged?  Not because they wanted women and couldn’t find them, but because in 2002, women were being forced upon them by their own democratically elected government.  In that year, the Norway legislated that fully 40 % of directors on company boards had to be women (up from a starting point in the low single digits).   Elin brought together CEOs, chairmen, selection committees and experienced business women, and put them through a process of getting to know each other in ways that has resulted in placing women directors on the boards of several companies on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Flushed with success, she then contacted her former classmate at London Business School, Jane Scott, to help her bring this concept to the UK this year.  Brave? You bet, because while Norway had legislated gender equity on boards, the UK has done no such thing, and the starting statistics were just as bad.  So Jane and Elin’s undertook to persuade Chairmen of major FTSE 250 company boards to participate in their process without any legislative battering ram. Many doorbells (and slammed doors) later, they had captured the interest of 25 of these powerful chairmen, and are holding the first UK session in London on May 5.  There, they will introduce 25 FTSE 250 Chairmen to about 50 “board worthy” women whom they have painstakingly sourced through a number of contacts and connections.Exciting, difficult, rewarding work driven by truly dedicated leadership. 

Why do I say leadership?  While their “formal” organization is small, if one considers the enormous virtual network that had to be built, and the promise of the future that the very concept holds, our Leadership Code nicely described these leaders… 

 ·         Strategists:  envision and create a future in line with current or attainable resources

·         Executors: translate strategy into action through intelligent decision making, teamwork and process

·         Talent Managers: engage others to get immediate results by identifying the required skills, and drawing the right talent close: communicating well, and connecting the individual to the mission


·         Human Capital Developers: build a workforce plan that helps others see their futures in the enterprise

Finally, Personally Proficient leaders continuously learn, particularly about their passions. They bring out the best in others because of their own integrity and trustworthiness.  When the going gets tough – or uncertain – or untested – and the personal and professional stakes are high, these are people who remain calm, confident, and grounded in their own quite personal and fundamental principles and values.

To read the fuller story of their accomplishments, please read about them in an April 29 article in the Financial Times.