Wanted: Women Directors
Women directorship — is this a career path for women in the C Suite?
Did you know that only 17% of board seats in publicly listed corporations or PLCs are held by women directors?
The new group we formed would like to see that grow to 30% in the next few years. Diversity means more profits as proven by global statistics, and being mindful of these numbers may be the secret sauce to making your company sustainable.
Diversity means including women, and also younger directors who may be more familiar with current concerns, such as Fintech and Sustainability. In a recent guesting at the NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors (NOWCD) General membership meeting, former Bursa Malaysia Chair Datuk Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen talked about women’s roles in committees like Risk and Sustainability. These are subjects that women directors can specialize in as these topics are the most in demand these days.
The NOWCD is now affiliated with Women Corporate Directors International or WCD (www.womencorporatedirectors.org), making its local members qualified for international board seats. More and more international lenders, like International Finance Corp. (IFC), may also open opportunities for independent directorships in projects around Asia, given the same time zone it would be convenient for Filipina directors. Other board opportunities in companies across the globe abound, and one only needs to be a subject matter expert and a member of NOWCD (which makes one a member of WCD) to apply for such well-compensated and much-desired foreign assignments. These posts give us more knowledge and experience in the international arena of business.
In the Philippines, we hope to advocate and also encourage companies with public interest to recruit women directors even though they are not listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also requires companies, such as Mercury Drug, National Book Store — though they are not public — to have independent directors. This was revealed by former SEC chair Teresita Herbosa, at the same general membership meeting of NOWCD.
Another tip given by Datuk Shireen is for women to come to the fore and promote each other so companies that keep saying there is a lack of women directors will have access to a list or a directory of qualified women. There is really a pressing need to recruit more women into our pipeline given the rule that one director can only hold a maximum of five directorships. If you do the math, we will never get to our goal of 30% as stated above if we do not train more young women to join our ranks.
The first step would be to enroll in a Professional Director Program (PDP), such as the one offered by the Institute of Corporate Directors (www.icd.ph).
Next would be to practice and earn your stripes in private corporate boards or even NGOs. As Datuk Shireen shared, it need not be a PLC right away. Sit in or accept invitations to join private company boards and NGOs.
Third would be to master a subject like Risk, Sustainability, or Audit. Just like a college degree moving on to a doctorate one, there are steps and specializations. One cannot be a master of all.
Fourth would be to network and be involved in business organizations or federations like the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN, www.philwen.org) which has six member organizations, exposing one to a myriad of opportunities in the women empowerment sector, especially through business. In PhilWEN we also have the Filipina CEO Circle, a robust group of over 100 Women CEOs and COOs, whose next career move would be to be a Board director. And that network experience makes one useful to PLCs, NGOs, and other companies with public interest as mentioned.
Many women CEOs think that the next step after one has reached the pinnacle of power and authority in a corporation, big or small, is retirement. What will one do with all that experience and knowledge gained over the years in corporate life? The next step is being in the B-suite or the Board.
So, whether you want to stay in the country or travel the world attending board meetings, like what Ambassador Delia Albert does, and other powerful women desire to do, you can start now. Start focusing on your specialty and let the world know you are ready to take it on, someday soon.
Remember today’s mantra for companies: “Diversity and Inclusion. Sustainability. Risk Management.” Only the fearful will set this opportunity slide. And women, regardless of age, can take a stab at it. Be fearless. This is the time for lifelong learning.
As for the men? Our message is for you to include women in your boards and you may be surprised at the different ideas they can contribute to your company’s bottom line, among other benefits they may bring to the proverbial table. Be a Champion of Change — diversity and inclusion are today’s buzzwords if one is to be perceived as an enlightened leader.
Yes, we want more women to be in boards. And we want them now.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP.
Chit U. Juan is a member of the MAP Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and the MAP Agribusiness Committee. She is chair of the Philippine Coffee Board, and councilor of Slow Food for Southeast Asia.