As the COVID-19 pandemic has grown in severity over the past few months and weeks, I have no doubt that, like everyone, you’ve had to rearrange your life in some manner or another to adjust to a “new normal.”
And like many, you may be observing how corporate boards are managing (or mismanaging) this crisis and think about how women might influence how boards are asking for and analyzing relevant data, making decisions, and behaving under stressful circumstances.
At Women In The Boardroom, we know that if more women are engaged in board service it’s better for the bottom line. According to a recent study performed by DDI, The Conference Board, and EY, gender diversity contributed to companies being 1.4 times more likely to have sustainable profitable growth.
Why? Because women ask questions. We analyze and problem-solve, inspiring more discussion around an issue. And now, more than ever, we need these critical skills during this unprecedented time. We are also better crisis managers who are in higher demand now more than ever.
Women hone the very vital skills and predispositions essential for mitigating crisis. Once we’ve dug ourselves out of this crisis as a nation and the pandemic dust settles, boards should be conducting post mortems, assessing lessons learned, and uncovering new opportunities for their organizations and companies – this should include diversification of their board members.
So, how can we continue to advance board opportunities in the wake of COVID-19?
If you’re a woman in search of a board seat, you should be working on building the right network and reaching out to your contacts, enhancing the right skills for board leadership, and doing the work needed to make you a more competitive applicant.
If you are a CEO or executive, or influence someone who is, I also urge you to take action, by assembling your boards in a strategic manner, adding directors that represent your customers, employees and shareholders and adding diversity.
If you serve as a director now, use your prime position of influence to increase diversity, through sponsorship of women candidates - bring their names forward whenever a board seat opens that they are qualified for. You should also be committing your entire organization to adding diverse voices – not only gender but age, race and skill-set as well.
Finally, if you are a senior-level executive woman, it is time to step up and serve. Develop your personal brand and learn how to work your network – don’t assume people know your goals and be sure to mentor and promote women leaders who are doing great work.
In the shadow of COVID-19, how we work and manage business will inevitably be forever changed, and boards should be looking to evolve accordingly. That means including the essential and effective leadership qualities honed by women – it’s the smart thing to do.
Sheila Ronning, founder and CEO of Women In The Boardroom – an organization founded with the goal of bridging the gender gap in the boardroom – is a recognized expert on boardroom diversity and leadership. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter @RonningSheila) or reach out to her at Ronning@womenintheboardroom.com
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