We hosted a seminar in London last Thursday with the Davies Committee focused on the evolution of the board. The seminar gave perspectives of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 Chairs and SIDs, board reviewers and fund managers, and was a real checkpoint on whether we need a more radical rethink about the approach to board effectiveness.
The UK has travelled a long way towards better boards, but we need to stand back and consider whether the changes are sufficient. We still need more women on boards, not just for its own sake but because this helps create more effective boards. However in order to demonstrate true diversity and change from the top, more female Chairs is the logical next step. When Susan Kilsby was appointed Chairman of pharmaceutical company Shire earlier this year, she joined Dame Alison Carnwath at Land Securities as only the second female chair of a FTSE 100 company. The seminar showed that the issue has evolved from women and boards to board effectiveness – one helps the other but it is also a catalyst for a general rethink, and there is still a long way to go.
The debate around boards has also evolved from being about gender diversity to being about cognitive diversity. The new leadership challenge in a rapidly modernising and increasingly technology-driven world is to ensure that companies keep up with this external pace of change. It is not enough to merely pay lip service to gender diversity; companies must take a deeper look at their working practices and cultures and see if there are ways that these can be modernised for a modern workplace of both men and women.
Materials from the seminar can be found here: 16_Oct_Programme_3