A blog from our founder, Robbie Hardy.
As women become more successful and find themselves in the boardroom, it is often uncomfortable because these boys are not quite sure what to do with invasion of the female species. They seem to want to open the door, pull out our chair, turn their backs and have urinal meetings. They have no idea how to deal with women at the executive level. Lets be honest, it has been almost forever when it was just the boys, their bourbon/scotch, cigars, martinis and late-night bonding at the strip club. So how do we change this?
There was an article in Huffington Post last year about a woman who was on the board of a public traded company who faced an unacceptable level of unconscious gender bias. This woman quit her job as a director at that public company and now she is telling her story.
“The board assumed they knew how I would have voted based on a biased assumption that I’d vote to keep my ‘friend,’ …..Because that’s what girls do, right? They make emotional decisions about friends instead of strategic decisions based on business facts. Girls can’t keep a secret. Girls are too emotional. Girls can’t make tough calls. And, thank goodness, girls won’t speak out when we marginalize them… Had there been other women on the board, the decision to silence me would have been different…. The more diversity, the more likely someone will speak up.”
My reaction is why quit? Why not stay and fight the prejudice? Easy for me to say, but seriously how do we change the game if we don’t stay around and fight? It’s not easy and the life-is- too-short saying comes to mind very quickly… “Who needs this crap? Life is hard enough without having to play this stupid, ‘I am woman hear me roar’ game.”
Harvard Business Review says that once there are at least three women in a group, they "tend to be regarded by other board members not as 'female directors' but simply as directors. The women no longer report being isolated or ignored." So how can we get to three if the first one quits?
I don’t think we can quit, I think we have to find a way to make these boys work well with their fellow board members, whether male or female. Let’s face it there are a lot of politics on corporate boards, so it’s not easy to be the odd-man or odd-women BUT if we are going to break this barrier, we need to stay and work to solutions.
I think situations like these require agility. Let’s look at all the options where this woman could become an integral part of the board of directors.
1. Directors are voted on by the shareholders... it is usually a slate so its not like the shareholders chose this woman, but they did put her in place to do the job of director.
2. There is a chairperson for every board. They might be part of the problem but that’s life. A private meeting with the chairman would be the first order of business for me. Calmly reviewing the events and suggesting how to prevent them from occurring in the future.
3. If that does not work, meet with each board member one-on- one in the same manner.
4. If that does not work add, the issue to the board agenda so that there are recorded minutes.
5. If that does not work, meet with the largest shareholders and express your concerns as well as present your solutions.
I think there are many paths to be taken (and none of them fun) to build a bridge that can be used in the future.
Quitting and then publicly telling your story sends the wrong message. If a man were treated as she reports, there would be fireworks and hell to pay. Women don’t need to resort to the same tactics, but they need to leverage their own tactics for the greater good of all women.
What do you think?