A number of schools across the PRME network have developed national indexes tracking the number of women in executive positions of listed companies. In the past we have looked at the Women on Boards programme at the American University in Cairo and Sabanci University’s engagement in the Women’s Empowerment Principles in Turkey. In the Netherlands, the Dutch Female Board Index is an overview of the presence of women in Executive Boards of 85 Dutch listed companies published by TIAS School for Business and Society in the Netherlands. I spoke with Prof.dr. Mijntje Lückerath-Rovers, Professor in Corporate Governance who is responsible for this annual publication.
What is the Female Board Index (FBI) and how did it come about
The FBI is a ranking of female executives and non-executives in corporate boards of all Dutch Listed companies. I started the FBI in 2008 after an example of the UK: The UK FTSE100 Index. In the Netherlands at that time it was a very heated debate whether or not we should introduce a legal quota for female executives and non-executives in corporate boards. Nobody knew exactly what we were talking about, and everybody used a percentage of 5%. In 2008 the % of female executives was 2.7%, non-executives 8.7%. In 2017 these percentages were respectively 6.2% and 24.6%. In the Netherland we aim for 30% for both executive directors and for non-executive directors but the numbers, in particular for female executives, are hardly increasing.
What are the key features of the programme and how does it work.
The TIAS Women Corporate Directors – The Next Generation program, which is now in its 6th cohort, brings women who currently have a position in middle management into contact with role models: successful women who have top positions in various organizations and institutions. Because the female role models are missing too often in practice. There are sufficient male role models, but for a complete picture, women also need other women to reflect on themselves – to see how they make decisions, how they face challenges and how they solve problems.
How is the Index, and lessons learnt from the Index, incorporated back into the curriculum/classroom?
The women in the Index are present in the classroom and share personal stories about their career. All of this happens on the basis of Chatham House rules. Even though these women have busy schedules, they make the time to come in to speak with the next generations.. The women are very open to share some of their dilemma’s in their corporate life, not necessarily based on being on woman, it is always related to decision making, but implicitly of course the participants see the difference with how the female directors solved these dilemma’s and what might be a more masculine approach. These sessions are preceded by a course by one of TIAS’ professor to give a theoretical insight on the five leading themes: governance, leadership, strategy, remuneration, finance.
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
Do not focus in on a course on female leadership or focus too much on themes such as glass ceiling and work life balance. Instead show business cases and let the women directors show their business skill and share their stories.
What’s next for the initiative?
Last year the Dutch Minister of Education adopted the Female Board Index as a tool to motivate Dutch firms to increase board diversity. We are planning to conduct more qualitative research to determine how the female directors in the female board index reached the top and what impact they have in their respective boardrooms.