"To me, it was a very clear case of unconscious bias. Because I had a previous professional relationship with the (now-former) CEO, 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.
For two months Dolan sought the advice of trusted friends and colleagues on how she should move forward after this ridiculously disrespectful move. Many urged her not to resign for fear that it would validate the board's speculation, and even she thought for a while that maybe she just had to work harder to earn the board's respect and trust. Others urged her to resign from a board that was so blatantly disrespectful.
She resigned, and now Quicksilver has no women on their board, and no accomplished global marketer. We love how strongly Dolan responded to this completely unprofessional and immature move made by her fellow board members! But we know that this is no kind of victory for women in business. It's just helping to shed light on a huge issue.
In the boardrooms of companies on the Nasdaq 100 stock index, 8 of them have no women, 37(!) of them have ONLY ONE WOMAN, and none of them have more than 6. None of these boards have any less than 5 men... On average, less than 17% of these companies' board members are women. That is ridiculous, and a recipe for future disaster considering women make up a significant portion of the consumer market. You know, like over two thirds of the consumer market.
Citing a 2006 study of professional women, Huffpost said that women who were the only female directors or executives at their company claimed that they were repeatedly ignored in meetings, left out of social activities, and excluded “even from some decision-making discussions."
This lack of respect for and acknowledgment of the expertise and knowledge women can bring to decision making table will not only hurt companies in the market. HuffPo suggests that this disregard could also be leading to issues at the management level, citing Twitter as an example. The social media giant reluctantly added just one woman to their board after public backlash a few years ago, but now they are scrambling to find a CEO.
Could this issue have been avoided if their board was more diverse? Could having a 'critical mass' of female board members increased the board's talent pool or improved decision making in the past? We can't say, but it's definitely something to consider.
But companies can't stop there, they must also dig deep and seek to diversify across the race/ethnicity lines as well.
Surely by looking outside of their default networks, companies will be able to see that there is a large number of highly qualified and talented women of color eager to serve as board members that can help propel their business forward.
As we scale the ranks in business, let's remember the importance of diversity for the health and performance of our companies. It is our responsibility to reach a hand back to help women of all backgrounds to reach similar or greater heights. It is our responsibility and privilege to change the status quo.
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