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Women on Boards Event

Women on Boards continues to be an important topic of discussion both within organisations and in the press. Wickland Westcott has carried out a number of high profile board evaluations, including Diageo, Mothercare and Thomas Cook, and recently hosted a thought leadership event with guest speaker Amanda Mackenzie. Amanda is Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Aviva plc, Non Executive board member of Mothercare plc and a member of the Lord Davies Steering Group for ‘Women on Boards’.

This event was an interactive question and answer forum, led by Keith McCambridge (Head of Wickland Westcott London Office) and attended by an audience of senior executives and HR professionals. Amanda gave fascinating insights and shared her views on key themes including the following:

  • Improving the gender balance in the Boardroom is important for driving company performance and not simply an equal opportunities issue. Companies must proactively invest in this area.
  • Quotas are unnecessary and will not create sustained behavioural change. The majority of those on the Davies Committee felt they were the wrong way to go. Progress is being made without them, for example Amanda expects the target of 25% of Board FTSE 100 positions to be held by women by 2015 to be achieved.
  • The focus should be on developing a long-term pipeline of women with the capability, confidence and desire for Board level positions.
  • Recommended strategies for achieving this included recruiting based on values, and providing women with the opportunity and support they need to gain the required experience. It is absolutely essential that women with the capability to operate at Board level receive encouragement, and have somebody credible telling them they can do it.

Amanda offered four pieces of advice to those (regardless of gender) who are considering Board level positions, and wish to optimise their impact in that arena:

  1. Do your homework – before you join a Board, meet with the key players and ask yourself the following questions: What will I be able to contribute? What are they looking for? How will this appointment help me develop?
  2. Be focused and disciplined with your time – if like Amanda, you are balancing your time between working in an executive role, and acting as a Non Executive Board member, ensure you fully surface the expectations of all parties.
  3. Be clear about what you want the company to be - effective board members contribute beyond their own immediate area of expertise or responsibility, and bring vision and direction.
  4. Spend time building relationships with other Board members – the best boards share a sense of responsibility for the working of the team. Be ready to do your bit to contribute to effective board dynamics.

Wickland Westcott would like to thank Amanda Mackenzie for her support in running the event and the delegates for their lively participation in the discussion. We would also like to thank Grant Thornton for the use of their offices and support of the event. The Talent Management Group is a networking and thought leadership forum. For more information on joining the group, or the ideas described above, contact a member of the Wickland Westcott Talent Team.

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