In an article focused on stepping-up recruitment of women for corporate boards I found the following statement: .......a growing body of research has shown that corporate boards with more female directors are better at decision-making, and that the companies will reap higher long-term financial returns. Some experts say women can be more assertive in the boardroom than men and thus more likely to challenge CEOs on crucial topics, such as risk-taking.
Women have certainly in more recent years, from my observation, not been under-represented on nonprofit boards. This does not mean they have always been the majority and indeed, in many of the largest nonprofits, they still may not be. But like in all boards, where achieving diversity, whether it is gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation or any number of other failures in diversity (e.g. community-based folks versus not), just because there is "minority" representation, it does not mean that the "diverse" have an equal voice. And so I am struck in particular about the idea that women in particular "can be" more assertive in the board room and be more likely to challenge CEOs on crucial topics. Such a general statement bothers me. I don't know that it is inherently a specific characteristic that is more likely to challenge as it is the openness or receptivity at the table for any challenge to be raised and addressed. As a matter of fact, I think it is boards in general that are less likely to challenge CEOs on crucial topics presuming they even recognize when is a topic "crucial" versus micro.
So, ok, MAYBE there is some evidence that a woman who will be more assertive and/or challenge management but in particular board environments, no one can be assertive and/or challenge management. In reality, it is on the leadership and the culture to ensure that anyone at the table can even begin to be assertive and challenge management. "Representation' is never enough to ensure a board can fulfill it's duties.
And speaking of women on boards, do check-out today's Washington Post article on what's happened and happening at the Miss America Pageant. Yes, there is significant comings and goings on the board and board members speaking out publicly about their position and the direction of the Pageant much of it more recently resulting from the "no swimsuit" decision. This decision in particular, one remaining to be reconciled among board members and constituents and those who sponsor the Pageant as well, is one that challenges what are the core values of the Pageant, aka board. While the article only skims at the highlights of the board drama, there's enough to imagine what might be the behind-the-scenes and during board meeting conversations. Again, at the heart of it all: core values: a good reminder that whatever else a board must do, it must collectively be clear about what it believes and ensure that the organization's work is guided by these beliefs.