Monday, 16 December 2013

Why male executives are afraid...of women.

In survey results reported today in the Globe and Mail, a large majority of male executives are unconcerned that there are few to no women on their boards of directors.  Over 60% of respondents had no women on their boards and the average proportion of women on boards was only 9%.  The respondents stated that they were not discriminating against women but rather the problem was that there were insufficient numbers of qualified candidates to fill roles.


MBA programs across North America have been graduating women since the first classes started in the early 1960`s.  Today, leading institutions such as the Harvard Business School have female enrolment in the range of 40-45%.  Clearly over the past 50 years there have been a large and growing number of women executives who have the competence to take on director`s roles.  The fact that few are seen as having the qualifications to become directors is a direct reflection of the discrimination that continues to exist in the `old boys network` that controls the executive levels of so many corporations in Canada and across North America.

Why are these male controlled companies so concerned of a woman`s influence on their boards.  In a word...FEAR.  Internally they recognize their own incompetence but amongst `friends` they know that they do not need to be concerned about being exposed because they hold secrets on the other members.  But if the sanctity of the network was to be altered by a non traditional member, they risk losing some of their leverage.  So close the ranks; circle the wagons; lift the drawbridge. 

Let`s disregard the fact that women make most of the purchasing decisions in the family.  From the food on the table to the car in the garage, women make the majority of these decisions. 

Disregard the fact that women represent a large and growing percentage of the workforce in such notable careers as business, law and engineering.  These just happen to be the pool from which large numbers of directors are selected.

And disregard the fact that women typically bring an entirely different world view and set of `soft` skills to the table which could provide a more balanced opinion on strategies, initiatives or mergers and acquisitions.

Some companies have the resolve to look past gender in their selection of executive and board members.  Yahoo, General Motors, HP, IBM and Facebook are just a few who have female executives in place.  None of these companies was desperate to select a women.  It was not some knee jerk reaction to public opinion.  Rather it was simply a sound business decision. 

If these industry leading companies were able to find the necessary skills and character in a woman, how can any fair minded male executive suggest that there are insufficient numbers of women to fill more that 9% of board positions.  How can 60% of companies have no women on their boards and suggest that it is ok.  It is inconceivable and offensive.  And it is detrimental to both the short and long term health of these companies.

If men would stop comparing shoe size long enough to take off the blinders that restrict their choices of executives at both senior and board levels, more companies would benefit from the inclusion of a female opinion and input.  It will require these men to set aside both prejudices and FEAR.

It is beyond offensive that we continue to have these kinds of conversations.  Whether the discrimination is based on gender or any other of the multiple considerations in today's society, to imply that only old white males have the qualifications to fill these roles is a disservice to all. 

Gentlemen, set aside your prejudices or get out of the way.  The future mocks you and  history will not defend your resistance.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said… and it needs to be said more. Women do not receive the same opportunities, are paid less and are forced to choose between raising a family or having a successful career. In fact, research has shown that a university educated women that takes a few years off to raise a healthy and secure child will never obtain the same executive level again once returning to the workplace. Putting a stop to this archaic and harmful inequity is both good for business and good for society!
    David Price, Camden Door Controls