Balancing the Boards

A board of directors is there to hire the ceo and assess the strategy of a company, giving oversight in the interests of shareholders and company value. In essence, they are critical to the success of a company. Just seven years ago, a little under half of the FTSE 350 company boards were all male. The British government wants women to make up at least a third of board membership by 2020. It’s not about being PC it’s been proven time and again that gender balanced teams make far better decisions. It’s also not just about getting more women on boards, it’s diversity at every level. One woman who has been crusading to improve the make-up of boards is Charlotte Valeur who founded the not-for-profit, Board Apprentice scheme. In an interview with Gwyn Garfield-Bennett, just before the announcement that she is to chair the UK IoD, Charlotte warned that the Channel Islands is losing money and business simply because we don’t have enough diversity among our non-executive directors.

Charlotte:  ‘For all small jurisdictions this is quite a big issue. I’m working around different jurisdictions, speaking to people in Malta, Cyprus, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Isle of Man, it’s all the same issue, we have a finite number of people in the Islands we have got to upskill our population. We’ve got to make sure we have the people to service the businesses we have. Just here in Jersey, last time I looked, we had 92 London stock exchange listed companies. They need a certain amount of diversity on those boards, can we even provide that or do we have to bring it in to our Island and give our fees away and give the direct taxes away that we’ve got from those fees. It’s  quite big numbers. It seems crazy.’

‘The number of women I can call on when I need women on boards, is a very small number and it has meant several times that I just could not find a woman for the board and that’s a problem because when we have people coming over here who are also very well connected they will see that we haven’t got the skills.

‘Again back to the ninety-odd  listed companies. If  they have five to seven board members each and we need at least 33%, as is recommended now, to be women that’s some 300 to 350 positions. I think we can cover 50 of those. So that’s 300 positions left that we have to get other women to take. Average fee is £35,000, that’s about £9 million that’s leaving Jersey every year simply because we haven’t upskilled our own population. In direct taxes of 20% that’s like £1.7 million we are saying goodbye to. That’s simply on a hundred listed companies, think about the thousands of others where we also can’t find the right talent to sit on those boards.  It’s also not just about women, it’s about people with neurodiversity, ethnicity, just different people to what has traditionally been there.’

What can we do about it?

Charlotte: ‘Upskill our people. We have to consider are we using all our talent appropriately, what can we do between us in collaboration? So for example, the Board Apprentice that I run we are doing just that. We are asking everybody to collaborate; we ask boards to offer a seat at the table so that we teach people how to be good board members. If we believe we are good board members why are we so scared of teaching other people to be the same and make it better for our country?’

You can read the full interview in the October 2018 Business Brief