Board turnover vital to getting women on boards

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Many lobbyists  have been left shaking their heads at  recent Canadian statistics which show the number of women in middle management is growing, while  the number in executive and board positions has remained steady over the past five to 10 years.

Is the key to more women on boards getting more of the men on boards to leave?

That’s Bloomberg writer Diane Brady’s theory - based on figures from the UK showing that six-year limits on board terms increased the number of female board directors by five points from 12.5% in 2010 to 17.3 percent this year.“What’s holding women back isn’t bias,” she  wrote. “It’s the fact that no one ever leaves the boards.”

Many boards only have to fill one position every two years. However, at that rate, even if women got 50% of the seats (which they don’t) it would take a long time to see positive change.

One major issue for these boards is not just inequality, it’s keeping up with the times. Some Fortune 500 companies have had the same board directors for almost 40 years and US companies that bother to set a fixed retirement age for directors have consistently been raising it—to the point at which 72 or older is now the norm.

While there are concerns about losing good directors, the change would mean that ineffective directors do not stay in roles for decades. The top performers would likely find new roles, so they wouldn’t be unemployed for long.

“Mandatory term limits enforce a discipline that most boards can’t embrace for themselves. Staggered terms could allow the companies to maintain the right mix of experience and new skills while forcing more regular discussion of gaps that need filling,” Brady said.

Forum question: Should Canada introduce term limits on board directorships?

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