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April 2011 Diversity & Inclusion Best Practice
Meeting the Lord Davies Review: Boards to have 25% women by 2015.
Last month’s best practice looked at the findings of the Lord Davies Review, which had just been published. I have been contacted so many times subsequently to offer views and advice that I have decided this topic merits further attention in this month’s best practice. The recommendations of the Review establish the following as key development needs:
1.    Companies should treat women’s leadership as a dynamic and strategic opportunity rather than an equal opportunities issue.
2.    Companies should consider raising their board’s and their nominating committee’s understanding of, and ability to address, unconscious bias.
3.    Board placement researchers and interviewers should understand and adopt processes to eliminate unconscious bias.
4.    Boards should provide senior women with influential board or executive level mentors either from within the organisation or outside it.
5.    Senior manager development needs to enable them to recognise and act on their own unconscious bias to ensure women’s skills and experiences are not stereotyped and their talents overlooked.
It is IDC’s view that the following five measures are key to addressing these requirements:-
1.    A long-term strategic approach to ensure women of high potential are identified and offered the development and experience needed for them to become board members.
2.    Companies and search agencies need to ensure that their selection processes take account of gender differences. Work by Dr Steve Glowinkowski, founder of Glowinkowski International (GIL), an IDC strategic partner, has demonstrated gender predisposition tendency differences, e.g. women having a tendency towards:
-      Higher self consciousness, lower self esteem; being more modest; being less assertive (Hence, women can be less assertive than men in putting across their talents and achievements in performance review and selection interviews);
-      Being more conscientious and more perfectionist (This can result in women thinking that if they excel in their work promotion will automatically follow);
-      Being more affiliative, more consensual and less persuasive (Women can be seen not to lead and manage in ways masculine, organisational cultures often expect).
Taking account of these gender predisposition tendency differences can be achieved by using behavioural competency interviewing and measuring candidates’ predispositions, using the Glowinkowski Predispositions Indicator (GPI). An individual’s predispositions are a good guide to their characteristic behavioural competencies. Hence, if a woman, or a man, of high potential has not displayed evidence of the behavioural competencies required for a board appointment, knowledge of her predispositions enables selectors to carry out further probing.
3.      Boards and Nominating Committees need to have their awareness raised of the existence of unconscious bias in their organisations and its potential negative impact on the performance and advancement of women. A highly effective means of doing this is a short workshop including forum theatre scenarios to illustrate how unconscious bias plays out in relation to women in masculine, organisational cultures. Interactive activities are then powerful in enabling workshop delegates to identify and adopt the behaviours they need to practise to address unconscious bias.
4.      Companies should consider assigning executive sponsors to their high potential women. A sponsor is someone who acts: on their protégé’s behalf as an advocate for their next promotion; expands their perception of what they can do; connects them to senior leaders; promotes their visibility; opens up career opportunities and gives career advice; offers advice on executive presence.
5.      Leadership development programmes need to incorporate learning on unconscious bias and how to lead and manage inclusively to enable women to achieve their full potential.
Achieving a higher representation of women on boards is critical to: avoid groupthink; enrich decision-making; understand the global emerging women’s market, larger than the emerging markets of China and India (Silverstein & Sayre, BCG, 2009).
Dr Ian Dodds, iandodds@iandoddsconsulting.com, 28 Mar 2011

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