By María José González de Cossío
The low participation rate of women on boards is the result of a deep structural problem, present not only in Mexico but around the world, says María José González de Cossío.
Despite the progress made toward gender equality in many areas of society, the participation of women on company boards of directors continues to be low.
Equitable access to decision-making positions is a fundamental factor for economic efficiency, which creates value for society. Diversity represents an opportunity to positively impact companies’ performance, however, it continues to be a challenge to overcome when facing cultural and structural barriers.
A group with heterogeneous profiles within an organization, results in greater economic performance by enhancing the talents, skills, and experiences of its members to create a new and improved dynamic. The teams become more innovative and creative while the amount of discussions multiply, with different points of view that strengthen the perspective and effectiveness of group decision-making.
Likewise, inclusion and diversity are part of the trend we see to more actively incorporate ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) factors, which increases the advantages of having a governing board with women. Diversity increasingly demonstrates its value as an engine for growth and as a means to better manage risk in this new normal.
Diversity on boards of directors should not only consider gender issues but should also include other disciplinary experiences. Just as it is not ideal for board members to all be of the same-sex, neither should they be from the same industry or discipline. The goal is to bring different perspectives and ideas to the table that lead to a complimentary dialogue.
When looking for a female board member candidate, we must expand the criteria that we generally use. As a board member, emphasis should be placed on experience and skills that can be integrated to enrich the board, such as trends like artificial intelligence, digitization, or other specialties that are a good complement to the board.
Companies can promote diversity by implementing practices that accelerate change. One of these practices consists of promoting impactful messages that seek to change the company’s mentality. Executives play a key role, they must convince their team to support gender equality, which can be promoted by linking it to business performance.
Inclusion must come from above, boards of directors and CEOs play an important role in this, they must be committed to exercise strong leadership to help their company grow while holding diversity to a high standard.
Leaders who act as facilitators of change and promoters of diversity, advance the benefits of inclusive corporate governance, which women take part in by contributing a different perspective of the market, better emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills.
In Mexico, we need to move from theory to practice and analyze the successful experiences that other countries have had in promoting women’s participation on boards.
One of these actions has been the approval of legislation that imposes quotas for the representation of women on boards of directors. Countries like Norway, France, and Sweden have already put this into practice, demonstrating a 30% female presence. Quotas have had a positive impact, resulting not only in a higher percentage of women sitting on boards but in better performance by companies.
The issue of gender quotas is controversial. Some argue that promoting gender equality prevents having the best person in the job. But we must consider, especially in countries like ours, the important weight that tradition plays in work environments. For this reason, in the absence of state intervention, it is difficult to change the composition of the boards of directors on its own, since it implies going against prejudices and values.
The low participation rate of women on boards is the result of a much deeper structural problem, present not only in Mexico but around the world. Within companies, the number of professional women who hold senior management level jobs is still small, which ultimately prevents them from being considered as board candidates. It is not a matter of capability, but rather of experience.
Editor’s Note: María José González de Cossío is a partner at Miranda Media & PR, where she directs the PR, Media, and Corporate Social Responsibility area. She has experience working in the private and public sector, as well as with NGOs on issues related to the energy sector, infrastructure, risk management, education, communication strategy, economic analysis, and public relations. María José is an economist from ITAM and a member of the Advisory Council of the Women’s Forum, Women in Energy, as well as the ITAM Alumni Advisory Council, where she promotes the empowerment of women, corporate social responsibility, and youth education. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Perinatology. Follow her on Twitter and/or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author.