HANDS-ON, PRACTICAL DEVELOPMENT OF HIGH CALIBRE FEMALE EXECUTIVES AT A FRACTION OF THE COST OF OTHER LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT PROGRAMMES.
In 2016 the 30% Club UK, the UK Government and Board Apprentice partnered together to launch the “Future Boards Scheme”, giving senior women a unique opportunity to get board experience to progress their careers to the next level. The scheme is aimed at listed companies, SMEs and other major organisations. Several major companies and well-known public sector bodies have signed up to take part in the scheme, including 30% Club members, Aviva and Hammerson. The 30% Club believes the scheme has the potential to significantly grow the talent pipeline of women executives by giving women 12 months’ experience on a major board. For more information please contact: Francoise Higson.
“Boards with blind spots are boards with potential issues. As shareholders we expect to see these blind spots addressed and boards strengthened through diversity."
- Colin Melvin, Hermes EOS
The Future Boards Scheme gives talented, senior women board-level development opportunities on the boards, or subsidiary boards, of other businesses.
It represents a practical step to support to increasing the representation of women below board-level in the senior layers of listed companies by giving them direct, first-hand experience of boards, as well as increasing the pool of talent of non-executive directors.
The concept has been proven through a number of successful trials run by UK Government Investments, Board Apprentice and the Institute of Directors in New Zealand. All three schemes were very well received by participants and the public and private sector boards who have hosted them.
Board Apprentice is now working together with the 30% Club to make the scheme more widely available across the public, private and third sectors.
Diversity is a business driver and by embracing differences we can then realise the maximum customer and shareholder benefits. As a result, there is a significant business need to improve the diversity of perspective, outlook, experience and thought that high-calibre, well-qualified, diversified talent can bring.
The scheme offers a development opportunity seeking to give individual participants the fullest possible board experience short of being a director. They take part in all day-to-day aspects of the board, with access to board papers and regular opportunities to offer their views in meetings when invited. They are encouraged to participate in sub-committees and offered the same induction and training given to non-executive directors and/or executives.
To ensure that there is no confusion about their legal status, they are not appointed, nor do they act as directors, nor are they paid. They have no voting rights, do not instruct nor direct the board in any way and are not part of the formal decision-making process. They do not form part of the quorum of a board meeting and are bound by the host board’s confidentiality rules. This is formalised in three legal agreements between Board Apprentice and the board, Board Apprentice and the candidate and the board and candidate (through a rider to the appointment letter).
Participants are not paid for their contribution and remain employed by their own company throughout. It is left to the board’s discretion to determine whether they can pay travel and subsistence expenses as they would usually for a board member and if whether to include the participant in their D&O insurance.
A good match benefits both the board and the participant, so boards will be asked what skills/experience they are looking for and matched with carefully-selected candidates. Individuals will not be matched with boards where there is a conflict of interest or a chance of them gaining a competitive advantage.
Each opportunity is typically for 12 months (one full board cycle) but can be ended at any point by either the host board or the participant. In exceptional circumstances, it can also be extended by mutual consent.
In the first instance, the scheme will focus on talented female candidates who are “board ready”, but who would benefit from the additional personal development, experience and direct access that the scheme brings. However, the intention is to look beyond this cohort of candidates to identify other rising stars in the female executive talent pool who will form the pipeline for the future.
The model has been designed so that in the medium term it could be expanded beyondfemale candidates, to improve broader diversity on boards.
“Different experiences, different perspectives and a new role to play have all added to the participant’s experiences.”
- Adam Lawrence, Chief Executive, Royal Mint
Benefits for Participants
Participant contribution – own time to prepare for board business.
"It is simply the best individual development action I have ever undertaken in my career."
- Participant, National Nuclear Laboratory Board
Benefits for Host Boards
Host board contribution – addition to D&O insurance and payment of usual board expenses at board’s discretion.
“It has been a win win for NNL and the participant."
- Andrew Mathews, Chair, National Nuclear Laboratory
Benefits for Employers
Employer contribution - £5k (or equivalent) per participant placed and circa 12 days of the participant’stime per year. This is significantly less than executive development courses at leading business schools which cost £7k - £13k (or equivalent) for 1-2 week courses.
"The participant has grown in self-confidence, breadth and insight since taking on the role."
- Nigel Keen, Chair, Oxford Instruments
The model will be to place board-ready women from listed companies - or from equivalent large, complex organisations - on each other’s boards, or subsidiary boards.
To participate in the scheme, 30% Club Members will need to do three things:
What is the problem we are trying to address?
The Future Boards Scheme aims to:
Why does this matter?
So what’s different about this initiative?
Surely offering this to women only is discriminatory?
What about the Companies Act 2006 – won’t participants be directors?
How are you going to ensure the best people are selected for this?
Why should I release an employee for this scheme?
So what’s the benefit to my board?
Why should I have a stranger on my board – surely that’s rather risky? What about commercial confidentiality?
What is my £5k (or equivalent) annual contribution used for?
What if our main board would not be suitable for a scheme of this kind?
Who is the scheme available to? What if I am a smaller organisation? What if I am an individual?
Who are the organisations who are delivering the scheme?