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Business Leaders Tackle Gender Imbalance on Boards

Business Leaders Tackle Gender Imbalance on Boards

Harvey Nash and The University of Hong Kong unveil board preparedness programme to raise women leaders on boards

Hong Kong, 22 January 2013 – Harvey Nash, the leading executive search firm and The University of Hong Kong, Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics, have unveiled their plans to create the world’s first certificated, cross-industry, international board preparedness programme for women, to be held in Hong Kong in April 2013.  The Women’s Directorship Programme has been created as an answer to the worldwide business community’s call to tackle the existing gender diversity imbalance in boardrooms across the globe and invites senior industry leaders to share their knowledge.

Board members today face new challenges and have increased governance responsibilities since new waves of reform swept in.  Directors need to be better prepared – beyond just compliance – to represent the interests of shareholders and stakeholders.  Gender-balanced boards are proven to result in greater business success but women are still hugely underrepresented in boardrooms across the world. 

Harvey Nash and Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics have joined forces to launch the first certificated board preparedness programme in Asia, exclusively for women.  The programme aims to address current and contemporary issues enabling women to be more effective at managing boards, and increasing the supply of board ready women executives across industries.  The programme will be led by a number of esteemed international professors and involve real life case studies and thought leadership delivered by industry leaders who are champions of diversity in the boardroom.

Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group said:

“Sustainable business success requires the support of a mature and diverse Board, and gender-balance around the Boardroom table is a key element in this.

“Harvey Nash’s partnership with Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics demonstrates our commitment to Asia, its important institutions and in particular, our investment in future female talent.  Although there has been a great deal of talk about gender balance and diversity, we are taking real action to unlock the talent pipeline and enable more senior business women to be successful in winning appointments to company Boards.”

Men continue to dominate the top ranks of nearly every firm across the world. Women currently represent less than 10% of all board level positions although across the world, they make up more than 45% of the workforce.  This gender imbalance in the executive suite costs firms money.  Companies that fail to retain and promote women to top leadership positions experience a significant drain on resources and talent.  A McKinsey study found that companies with the highest female representation in top management positions achieved returns on equity 35% higher than companies with the lowest female representation.

Companies frequently bemoan the lack of a skilled talent pool of women – though research consistently demonstrates this is not the case.  Female leaders are simply more hidden and less inclined to put themselves forward as they do not feel empowered or ready to take on a board role.  Many current female leaders highlight a lack of confidence as a key barrier to their progression. This new initiative is designed to specifically support female executives rise to the boardroom.

Professor Amy H. Lau, Director of Executive Education, Faculty of Business and Economics, said:

“We recognise there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to addressing the lack of women in leadership positions across the world and there is no magic strategy for a woman to reach the top in her career.  However this programme is aimed at helping participants develop their own set of strategies tailored to their career ambitions, situation and personality, recognising that these will evolve over time as new challenges arise and elements in their lives change.  We want to drive this agenda forward and demonstrate our commitment to making a change.”

The programme content will include five modules, taught over two three-day sessions (April 11-13 and June 6-8 2013):
• Audit and Remuneration Essentials
• Persuasive Communication and Conflict Resolutions
• Stock Exchange Rules and Regulations
• Ethics and Compliance
• Strategic Leadership

This interactive programme will include involvement from key industry leaders, such as Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of Centrica and President of the Confederation of British Industry Donald Brydon, Chairman of Smiths Group / Sage Group Teresa Ko, China Chairman of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Charles Li, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd Kevin Taylor, President APAC, BT Group Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman, MasterCard and Umran Beba, APAC Regional President of PepsiCo.

Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of Centrica and President of the Confederation of British Industry said:

“We are all aware there is no one perfect solution to tackling the gender imbalance in boardrooms across the world but we know that action needs to be taken to make a change.  This programme is a huge step in the right direction.  Women need to feel empowered to put themselves forward for senior roles.  Board members need to have a broad skill set.  As a group, they need to reflect all the stakeholders of a company - whether it's the customers, the employees, or indeed, the shareholders. Women undoubtedly improve the dynamics and the atmospherics of the boardroom, and in so doing, help the quality of decision-making.”

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman, MasterCard, said:

“Tackling the current massive gender imbalance in the boardroom is top priority for businesses around the globe.  Boardrooms need to adequately represent their consumer base in order to be most effective.  We believe that diversity sits at the root of innovation and we wholeheartedly support this new initiative to develop female leaders.”

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