Women severely under-represented in corporate boardroom
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia and Park Min-shik
A glaring lack of female directors on a companyâ€™s board of directors is a sign that it is not a “healthy business,â€™â€™ according to Lucy P. Marcus, founder and chief executive officer of Marcus Venture Capital.
Many Asian and Korean corporations have little or no female representatives in boardrooms, but Marcus says this is sadly still an all too common case on corporate boards around the world.
“There is no doubt that women are severely under-represented in the boardroom, and this is not only the case in Asia, but all over the world. The lack of women on boards, however, is a reflection of a wider problem with diversity: it is one of color, age, international perspective, and more,â€™â€™ Marcus said in an interview with the Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times.
Marcus, whose company works with venture capital and private equity funds, institutions and corporations, said that as an investor, the lack of diversity in a corporate board sets her alarm bells ringing.
“When I see a business with a board that has a preponderance of people with similar, if not identical, profiles, this is a signal that it is not a healthy business… Its good corporate governance and good business sense to reflect a range of the organizationâ€™s stakeholders,â€™â€™ she said.
Data shows the percentage of women board directors in Asia is only 1.8 percent, compared to 20.5 percent in Nordic countries and 14.1 percent in North America. Marcus noted that having diversity results in a more capable and better functioning board that is better equipped to deal with various challenges.
“Healthy businesses need comprehensive diversity. Without it, there is no independence of thought or action, and no way to keep in touch with the pulse of the stakeholders of today,â€™â€™ she added.
Marcus is one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 Seoul Global Women’s Leadership Conference to be held on Nov. 29 and 30 at the Shilla Hotel, Seoul.
In her project “The Global Task Force on Building Women Leaders,â€ one of the premises is: â€œThere is a widely recognized need to strengthen leadership roles for women in government, and in non-governmental and corporate organizations around the world. There is a pressing desire to address this need in a comprehensive and concrete manner.â€
Marcus once again emphasized the importance of creating an environment where women can succeed. Some countries may require special efforts, whether through legislative measures or economic incentives, such as rewarding workplaces for encouraging women and educational systems that educate women to the highest standards.
“It is incumbent on all of us to ensure there is an atmosphere in which we can harness and encourage the talents, enthusiasm, and skills of all people to help the future development of these societies,â€™â€™ she said.
Marcus suggested several concrete and effective measures at supporting and developing female leaders, such as teaching women basic skills on networking and public speaking; exposing women to international experiences; mentoring programs; and meeting other women leaders in different fields.
Studying factors that contributed to the development of women leaders, Marcus said the most successful women are hardworking, have traveled extensively, grabbed opportunities and harnessed their fear as ``rocket fuelâ€™â€™ to work harder.
“These are the women who never settle for the mediocre, are perpetually restless and striving, and who know that real success can only be found by crossing time zones and cultures. Never settling, always being driven, and always seeking new experiences _ these are the hallmarks of the most senior women, and indeed the most senior men, in the world,â€™â€™ she said.
Based on her personal experience, Marcus said that it helped being surrounded by role models and studying in an encouraging atmosphere in Wellesley College, whose alumni include successful women leaders like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her predecessor Madeline Albright.
“It was an extraordinary opportunity to know that great women leaders had, as young women, sat in the same seats in which I sat, learned from many of the same professors, and lived in the same place I did, and that they had risen to positions of influence,â€™â€™ she said.
Selected as a World Economic Forum Global Leader for Tomorrow, Marcus hopes that in the years since, she has lived up to the expectations that come with the the position.
“It is important to recognize the critical roles that women have played in developing societies and economies. By highlighting this work, it begins to help countries, societies, and companies realize that this is not unusual, but rather should be the norm,â€™â€™ she said.