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ET Women's Forum: Diversity can help companies innovate better in competitive environment, says Brenda Trenowden

Gender balance benefits the business of companies better,says the global chair of 30% Club.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Feb 11, 2019, 12.37 PM IST
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Brenda Trenowden, CBE, global chair of the 30% Club
Brenda Trenowden, CBE, global chair of the 30% Club
The Economic Times Women’s Forum 2019 took forward the mission that it launched last year — to collaboratively and urgently build a sustainable culture of empowering India’s half a billion women — through a scintillating day of conversations and debates about encouraging greater participation and reducing gender inequality in every sphere of life, work, and play.

What gets measured, gets done: That’s how Brenda Trenowden, CBE, global chair of the 30% Club, exhorted organisations looking to increase gender balance in their corporate boardrooms. Trenowden, in her address at the ET Women’s Forum, was talking about the impact the 30% Club has had on fostering gender balance on FTSE 100 boards. Also head, financial institutions group, Europe, ANZ Bank, Trenowden pointed out that when the 30% Club started in the UK in 2010, the percentage of women on the largest FTSE 100 boards was 12.5%. What’s more, there were 21 all-male boards. Apart from the Club’s project of raising this to 30%, the government also launched its plan targeting 25% women on boards.

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“Now, there are no all-male boards on the FTSE 100. We are now at 30.9% on the FTSE100. We had a measurable goal with a time frame. What gets measured, gets done,” Trenowden said.

The key factors that helped in achieving the target included support of public policy, the government setting targets, working with the power base—the people who were actually effecting the change, collaboration with like-minded groups, concerted and cohesive action and constant media attention to the cause.

ET Women's Forum: Diversity issue must be embedded within a company’s core business, says Brenda Trenowden

The 30% Club has since widened the target beyond the 100 biggest companies to 350. From boards, the Club is targeting senior management teams.

In India, the policy seemed to be moving in the right direction with the 2013 Companies Act requiring companies to have at least one woman on the board. But Trenowden said that is not enough to effect change. The real impact comes when companies see the business benefit of having better gender balance.

In a rapidly changing environment, all organisations need creativity and innovation to remain competitive. That will only happen if companies have diverse teams.

Trenowden quoted a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study in Europe in 2017 that surveyed 171 companies on how innovative and diverse they were. The most diverse were also the most innovative and inversely those that were most innovative were the most diverse. “While it is difficult to show whether there was a causation or a correlation, the link was very clear,” she said.
ET Women's Forum: Diversity issue must be embedded within a company’s core business, says Brenda Trenowden

The study also showed that companies needed to have at least 20% women in their senior leadership to have an impact on innovation revenue.

Trenowden lamented that in times of economic crisis, many organisations let gender balance drop down the agenda. “They think it is nice to have and it does not become a priority, but that is precisely the time when they need to be focusing on more diversity,” she said.

There is ample evidence for this in the form of research and studies that support the argument that more diverse boards and more diverse management teams are much more effective that “identikit” boards. They are better at decision-making and they are much better in terms of financial performance, she added.

Workplace Diversity: Need Equality In The Boardrooms

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Who's The Boss?

6 Feb, 2018
The world over, there has been a clamour for diversity in the workplace. In India too, the story is no different. And a lot of corporations have raised red flags over the abysmal representation of women in the boardroom. From treating women equally to women-specific policies, there are various points of view. So what can bring about diversity?
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