Saturday, September 20, 2008

Women on Boards: Leveraging the Promise

DATE/TIME/LOCATION: Tuesday, October 28, 2008
7:30 AM to 9:00 AM
at Verity, 111d Queen Street East; Toronto, ONT, CANADA

Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions is pleased to sponsor a roundtable discussion on the topic of women on boards. The objectives of the session are to discuss the qualifications and experiences that make someone “board ready”; and to engage a diverse group of stakeholders to identify strategies to increase the number of women on the boards of Canadian organizations. The discussion will also focus on how to pursue board positions and succeed in them, based on the real life experience of the panellists and guests.

Susan Black: Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning & Chief Human Resources Officer ING Canada Inc. Former president of Catalyst Canada which completed a study on women on corporate boards in Canada in 2007.

Elizabeth Ghaffari: President/CEO of Technology Place Inc., founder of Champion Boards and author of Surveys of Women on Boards of Directors at California-Based Fortune 1000 Firms in 2004 and 2005.

Courtney Pratt: Chair of the Board of Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions. Chairman and CEO of the Toronto Region Research Alliance. Previously Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Stelco, Chief Executive Officer of Toronto Hydro, CEO of Hydro One Networks, Chairman of Noranda Inc., and President of Caldwell Partners.

Beverly Topping: President/CEO of the Institute of Corporate Directors, founder of Today’s Parent Magazine and a multi-media company which she sold to Rogers Media in 2000.

Betsy Wright: Previous senior positions with Chemical Bank, Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Midland Walwyn Capital Inc. and National Trust. Current/past Director of BCE Inc., Canadian Bankers Association, Canadian Depository for Securities, Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation, Canadian Payments Association, Holt Renfrew and Co. Limited, MasterCard International and Pizza Pizza Royalty Income Fund.

Liane Davey, Ph.D., Liane is a Principal in the Organizational Leadership and Solutions practice of Knightsbridge. She has over 10 years consulting experience in the areas of Strategic Facilitation, Organization Development, and Measurement. Liane’s first book, Leadership Solutions (co-authored with David Weiss and Vince Molinaro) was released in the fall of 2007.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On “members only”

What is the value in having a “members only” web site or organization? Especially for women who are trying to advance to leadership?

Babson College Professor Patricia Green wrote that “women have different circles of friends,” suggesting “members only” cliques might be part of the explanation behind why there were so few women in leadership at top companies.

Chambers of Commerce today have several “Women’s Chambers” groups which are spin- offs from the main coed group. That may not be a bad thing if the small groups become real platforms for “commercial” success for women entrepreneurs. But, if the “members only” subset becomes craft and “mommy ‘n me lifestyle” hobby-activities that further isolate business-minded women from real economic knowledge, then maybe that’s another explanation behind why there are so few women in leadership at top companies. Are women hiding from the challenge of debating and networking among men in the coed groups by fleeing to these members-only spin-offs?

Women’s organizations abound today, asking members to volunteer or to dedicate themselves to cause after cause, with little thought about the value of women’s time. If women add value to business, which I believe is the case, then women also deserve to be paid for their services to women’s organizations – say speaker fees or consulting fees -- rather than simply expect all women currently in leadership to mentor for free the next tier of candidates. Women in leadership give generously of their time. Do women in membership groups truly value that asset?

Women’s advocacy groups get formed to critique male business strategies: “Action Required of CEO’s and Boards”, but strangely enough, no action is required on the part of independent women.

Some of the oldest women’s groups in the country are “for members only.” In fact, they’re “by invitation only.” It’s hard to imagine how such groups can help advance women to public company boards when nobody knows who has been invited or selected to become part of the group except the women themselves. Are women businesses bringing women to top leadership? To their boards? Paying them top corporate dollars? Even more important is the question of how can women tell corporations and men in charge there that disclosure and transparency are desirable when women don’t practice openness themselves?

An interesting contrast is the Institute of Corporate Directors’ (ICD) Canadian “Women in the Lead” program supported by the alumnae of the Richard Ivey School of Business at University of Western Ontario. They are launching their fourth edition of a Canadian directory of women’s competencies: Women in the Lead/Femmes de tĂȘte. Ordering information at:

“National in scope, [the book] lists the professional expertise, responsibilities, contributions and recognition of more than 800 accomplished women” for top Canadian women in work and communities. They currently serve on over 3000 boards representing corporate, government and not-for-profit organizations, or an average of 3.75 boards per woman.

The other very encouraging example is this very website,, which has had such a major and positive impact on young women seeking to find role models of successful women in leadership. Not a clique, not a groupie: just an open door where business, corporations, boards of directors, and other aspiring women can see what leadership looks like today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Glass Half Empty? or Half Full?

The number of women in business schools, today, is very much like the trends in other parts of business. There are as many women in that field as there are women who aspire to achievement in the field.

Women should be telling each other the truth: that more women than ever before ARE taking business subject as undergraduates and in graduate schools of business/management. [Data and figures have been updated to 2006-2007: Digest of Educational Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education.]

The total number of degrees conferred in business, management, marketing and related support services at the Bachelor's level reached 327,500 in 2006-2007, with women representing 161,200 graduates every year or a 49.2% share.

Even more important is the accelerated increase in the number of women over the years. Total undergraduate degree head count increased 23% from 1995-96 to 2006-07, but women earning bachelors' business degrees increased 27%.

The total number of degrees conferred in the same fields at the Masters level reached 150,200 in 2006-07, with women representing 66,100 graduates every year, or a 44% share.

Again, total graduate degree head count increase 23% from 1995-96 to 2006-07, but women earning masters' business degrees increased 30%

The picture is even more impressive for all master's degree recipients. Women earned almost 61% of the 610,000 graduate (master's) degrees in 2006-07, a trend that has been on the rise for years.

Rather than tell the next generation of women leaders that "business is soooooo hard!" like some make believe plastic mannequin, we could be telling that talented, competent, capable next generation of women leaders the truth:

1. GO FOR IT! A business degree is a ticket to a better future in any field you choose to follow.
2. You're not alone in pursuing a business, economics or finance education -- there are a lot of talented women doing just that.
3. Look around you, look up ahead of you: women in business are making a real difference, even in tough economic times.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.