By Chit U. Juan
As we continue to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the board room, many naysayers would react negatively and say that they do not know any candidates to fit the bill anyway, even if they wanted to find some. This only means that qualified women directors are not known to these publicly listed companies (PLCs) or they seem to see the same women sitting in various boards. Where are the others? Are there only a handful of women directors? Is this why the same few women sit in most of the public boards?
This is the reason we directors got together to organize the Nextgen Organization of Women Corporate Directors, or NOWCD as we call ourselves. Truly, the time is NOW and boards must look at diversifying their composition if they should be sustainable as a company. Are we pushing our way in? Hardly. A lot of qualified women with corporate experience simply are not promoting themselves enough or are too humble and just wait to be noticed. Waiting to be noticed makes it difficult for boards to find qualified women. We must be prominently in the circles of those who need to find women candidates.
Now imagine all that wealth of corporate experience going to waste if we are not able to use the minds of these women for our corporate boards? Further, women are known to throw in a different mindset and a different way of looking at situations, which we so badly need. We do not like “Yes men” or “Yes women” in boards. We want to challenge ideas if a company has to grow and adapt to the times.
We were pleasantly surprised to know that we even have a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) among our members. She, at one meeting, pointed out the companies with public interest that we must also penetrate as board members. And to endeavor to add women to boards that are usually all-male or “all in the family.”
The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), an esteemed organization, now has about 25% of its members who are women and a good percentage of younger corporate leaders, to refresh the organization which has gotten a reputation of being too old and too male. We look forward to the MAP’s next generation, which is set to also pepper the board rooms with their youth and fresh take on today’s challenges in business. MAP is truly setting the pace with its new strategy to also survive as a leading management organization. It is one thing to represent the business community, but another thing to be a relevant organization. Kudos to MAP and its new Board of Governors for being inclusive.
Now it’s time to find these women who can be our candidates at the next stockholders meeting of our PLCs, and even for private companies. It gives the public a good sign when a company looks at diversity in management and in the board room. This only means the company is progressive and has forward-looking leaders to take the corporation into the next decade.
How do we find these women directors? Check out the NOWCD website — www.nowcdphils.com — or attend some of our events. We have one coming up on Feb. 27 at Manila House to get more women corporate officers interested in becoming board directors. It will also tackle issues like board liability in case the company gets into trouble with government and other regulators. You may also reach out to any member to find out how a woman you know can be part of us.
Diversity is not just adding women. It can also mean adding younger board members who are more familiar with today’s technology and are born digital natives. It can also mean adding people of various creeds and persuasions. It can also mean diversity in experience — biotech, fintech, and the other new areas of learning for adapting to the challenging times.
But adding women directors can be a good start. While we do not ask for legislation (yet), we find that diversifying board compositions may be the easiest way to make a company more adaptable to the business climate these days. Sustainability is not just about climate change and adapting to social issues. Sustainability can be about adapting to our customers by adding the representative of such markets to our boards. And a lot of purchase decisions are made by women. So, putting a rep in the board may be a good idea for consumer-focused companies. And that is a woman.
Find out more about how women and diversity add value to corporate boards. There have been many studies on how it has made financial impact as well as an assurance of sustainability. Diversity and inclusion are today’s hot topics in business and you can definitely adapt well by just looking at the top — the board room.
Chit U. Juan is a member of MAP’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Agribusiness Committee. She is chairwoman of the Philippine Coffee Board and councilor of Slow Food for Southeast Asia.