Directors of Coca-Cola Company, Avon Products, Nestle, Calvert Group Ltd., Limited Brand, MetLife, Proctor & Gamble, Xerox Corporation, and many additional companies are among the 200 women meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss vital corporate governance topics. Issues include global scarcities in critical areas governing economic activity; complexity/risk; urbanization; changing customers around the world–from niches to global mass markets; and corporate social investing – beyond philanthropy.
Providing a forum for women directors to engage with each other over leading governance issues, WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Global Institute will convene in New York City for the first time ever this coming week. WCD is a global organization of over 1,000 women directors representing 1,200 companies from 32 chapters around the world. A number of companies that are leading the way with women on their boards will also be honored and recognized.
“Companies with a higher proportion of women on their management committees are also the companies that have the best performance,” according to a recent study by McKinsey and Company. “Since this is a correlation, not a causal link, I think the reason that boards with women perform better is that these companies have no built-in bias; that makes it more likely that these companies are also innovative regarding strategy and hiring,” explained Myra Hart in a private interview with me.
Hart is a professor at Harvard Business School, who serves on the boards of Kraft Foods, Inc., Office Depot, and Nina McLemore Inc. On Tuesday evening, Hart will present an award to Irene Rosenfeld, Chair and CEO of Kraft Foods, Inc.
“Boards with women are also more likely to be more purposeful in searching for highly qualified candidates far beyond their private circles,” added Hart. “These boards are more likely to find members with the business expertise and qualities that the board needs most; and more likely to have a mix of ages and backgrounds.” Hart commented on the value of people on boards having different points of view, respecting each other’s opinions, listening with open minds, and being willing to change their views in the face of compelling evidence.
For young professionals interested in building their qualifications to serve on corporate governing boards, Susan Stautberg, co-founder of WCD, and president of PartnerCom Corporation, recommends serving on corporate advisory boards. Stautberg agreed with me that nonprofit board service is also valuable for developing governance experience. She also suggests joining committees such as finance and nominating/governance, and becoming involved in leadership succession planning, in order to build particularly relevant experience.
It’s pretty simple, right? Boards that limit the pool of candidates from which they’ll seek talent are limiting their opportunities to be the best. Boards that seek board candidates who bring the most excellent experience, expertise, and qualities to the table–including women and men from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives–are going to have the most effective boards. They’ll win.