And in this context, “fairer” might just mean more honest and less corrupt. In a recent index published by an American provider of, well, indices, it was revealed that companies with a higher-than-average proportion of women on the board are less prone to fraud, bribery and corruption. The November 2014 results of the “2014 Survey into Women on Boards” (by which I assume they mean “… of directors”, rather than “surf-“ or “skate-“ or even “ironing”) tell us that although the proportion of women in board positions continues to creep up, “the vast majority of the gains are coming from markets that have instituted mandates and regulations to boost the ranks of women on boards”. But when they do manage to reach the top tier – the C-room, I believe it’s called – women have a very positive effect on the behaviour of their companies.
As the survey explains: “Boards with gender diversity above and beyond regulatory mandates or market norms had fewer instances of governance-related scandals such as bribery, corruption, fraud, and shareholder battles.” And their positive influence carries on into future decisions, as “there is preliminary evidence that companies with more women on their boards tend to display overall stronger management of ESG-related risks”. (To save you looking it up, because I had to, ESG stands for ‘environmental, social and governance’.)
Is it possible to speculate on why this might be without offending sensibilities at every turn? All I can do is give my own view – that of a woman in her late-mid-forties – and apologise in advance for any sexism, ageism or any other -ism that I might inadvertently display. In my experience, males (both boys and men) tend to be more risk-taking, more show-offy and less willing to back down than girls and women of the same age. So an all-male board might be willing to take a more aggressive, more confrontational stance when faced with a potential risk (“What the heck – let’s go for it!”) than one tempered by a female influence. Of course there are plenty of cautious men and reckless women serving on boards, but if the average female director has the effect of protecting her average company from all sorts of nasties, it’s an interesting finding.