Mars vs Venus: leaders aligned on business, differ on diversity

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We can discuss the differences between men and women all day without many answers, but it seems women and men still disagree about what causes the shortage of women on company boards.

A new report from WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) found 45% of men said the "lack of women in executive ranks" is the primary reason that the percentage of women on boards isn't increasing, while only 18% of women agreed. Female respondents said the fact that traditional networks tend to be male-oriented was a concern.

"There is a clear perception gap when it comes to evaluating how the still predominantly male business networks impact the number of women on boards," organization co-founder and co-chair Susan Stautberg said. "Women see a real need to develop the kinds of networks that have historically been the path to directorships. These more diverse networks will create greater success for the company."

The organization surveyed more than 1,000 directors around the world and found both genders agreed on economic outlook, political and regulatory concerns, and the business challenges facing their companies.

"We see a remarkable consensus among men and women directors globally regarding the top 2012 political issues and the threat of increased regulation in this turbulent economy," Stautberg said. "But there is far less agreement from men and women in the area of board diversity. Women believe that board leaders must actively work to bring more women onto boards, while men see the lack of board diversity equally as a pipeline issue.”

More than half (57%) said they did not see diversity as a top priority for their board, and one-third (35%) of respondents said their boards had adopted measures that successfully advanced diversity on the board. Just over one-half (51%) of the women directors surveyed believe that quotas are an effective tool for increasing diversity in the boardroom, but only 25% of men agreed.

One area of agreement was in how men and women rate their personal strength — or lack thereof — in CEO succession planning. Only 1% of women and 0% of men rated succession planning as their strongest area of board expertise.

Although finding the next generation of leadership was critical to the health and prosperity of an organization, only 40% of respondents globally said their boards had an effective succession planning process for directors.

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