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09.07.2020 Opinion

Rottweiler In The Boardroom

By Theodora Senaya
Rottweiler In The Boardroom
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They are domestic and fearless; no wonder the door could not resist but swung open. Rottweilers are always black with tan points. Wow! This Rottweiler appeared different; fearfully and wonderfully made, looking amazing. Dressed in a coffee brown skirt suit with light orange long sleeve shirt, she walked majestically to the chair that was different from the rest.

No sooner than she had started speaking, the last participant walked in quietly. She took her seat. “You are late,” the Rottweiler exclaimed!

Another blow came when one of the participants whom she had designated to act as a company secretary in a boardroom setting for practical exposure rushed out to receive a call, forgetting to ask or signal for permission after being previously cautioned. “The next time, you will be replaced,” came the final warning.

A pin-drop silent but there was an atmospheric change. The more she spoke, the more we were getting consumed with the desire for knowledge. Everyone desired to be like her. Yes! We wanted to become Rottweilers. Enough of being a Pomeranian.

Mrs Marian Barnor was the Rottweiler. She served as the Board Chairperson for a financial institution. She was as tough as leather and as disciplined as a soldier. She was as bold as a lion and as loving as can be. Her training session was on Boardroom Competence. Right from the start, she made it clear: “you do not go to boardroom late.” Her aim was to give us practical training; the aspect we cannot find in books.

Thank God we were part of the first batch of the Female Future Program in Ghana organised by the Ghana Employers Association in collaboration with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). This was a leadership and boardroom competence development programme aimed at equipping corporate women with the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities to take up leadership and boardroom roles.

Associating with the likes of Esther Cobbah, Vicky Wireko Andoh, and Marian Barnor for days at the Female Future Program was the best thing that happened to us. These were strong and powerful women who defied all odds, in a male-dominated environment and made it to the very top in the corporate world. They put fire in our bones as they shared their experiences and showed us the practical way to take up leadership and boardroom roles.

Trends in the corporate world have revealed that women occupy about 30% of senior management role globally as compared to men in the workplace. A study conducted by Harvard Business School on gender diversity in 2019 also showed that 80% of the directors were male.

Women participating in top positions both in the public and private sectors have stirred heated argument internationally, with some countries adopting a quota system. Studies conducted have revealed that board diversity has a direct and positive bearing on a company’s profits and risk management.

According to the Annual Corporate Directors Survey, approximately 95% of directors agree that diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom while 84% believe it enhances board performance.

Despite the increase in numbers of women reforms and associations around the world, only a handful have accepted to take the challenge to rise to the top. There are women who have the right qualifications to sit on boards but need to be convinced that it is worthwhile.

Dialogues with some male directors regarding women on their board show that women possess the ability to occupy top senior positions. One of them with over 15 years of experience as a CEO in a public corporation said: “Even when there is just one woman in the room, the dynamics change a lot! There is less joking around and more objective discussion.”

Other testimonies from male directors testify that women tend to have a critical eye to the issues on the table and are generally very careful and cautious; detail-driven and prudent in their views. Others stated that women are patient and have better communication skills and tend to do more research on the issues before meetings.

Well-prepared and qualified women on boards translate to actual improvements in operational results. For young women desiring to be directors and make an impact, there were few tips I learned.

First of all, Experience and professionalism is what will qualify women for C-Suite positions and the boardroom. There is currently a huge debate on quotas for women in top positions which includes being on the board. Whilst some women welcomed the idea, some are totally against it— they want to go through the same process as the men and earn the right to be on the seat.

Moreover, Women should prepare for board positions by seeking the appropriate education and experience. Our knowledgebase should be built especially within the industry we find ourselves. If we are in banking we should learn everything about banking, not just one aspect of it. We should take responsibility for our personal development by enrolling for courses, even if it means self-financing. Our CVs must be strong with the relevant qualification.

Furthermore, having good analytical skills is a key ingredient if women want to be relevant in the boardroom. Women must have the ability to analyze macro issues and follow economic trends; having a strong capacity to analyse financial statements is a must-have. It is not just enough to be in the boardroom. Our presence must be felt.

What is the benefit of building up skills and experience and have it locked up in a room? We should market ourselves. One drawback is that women do not market themselves enough. We must speak up on business issues, be visible, and make a name for ourselves; lecture, teach and write articles. We need to invest in ourselves.

Also, networking is another important ingredient we should be intentional about. The truth is that the person you know matters a lot. In order to be heard, women must interact more with powerful shareholder groups. We should join associations and be in the right network.

In addition, self-development is needful for maintenance. We must be aware of our strengths and not focus on our shortcomings. This means we should refrain from being confrontational. We should be professional at all times without feeling intimidated.

What’s more, we should enroll in a mentoring program and get mentored. We should shadow an experienced director for a couple of years. We must learn to listen more than talk to gain a better understanding of the board’s dynamics.

We need to show the significance and exercise our vocal prowess for the right reasons. We must portray skill, experience, and professionalism as we face challenges head-on to earn our seat in the corridors of power with the aim of leaving footprints behind.

Women should be more vocal about the desire for board directorship. We should learn how to survive and prosper by challenging ourselves to move into C-level management. We are not meant to be observers who nod to every issue that is presented before us. As Mrs. Marian Barnor advised: “Challenge the figures, punch holes, ask questions and congratulate when need be”.

All too soon, the two-day training onboard competence with our Rottweiler seemed like thirty minutes. We all wanted to be mentored by her. I was so excited when she called me at work with an advice to take up some certification courses (which I have done) and sent me some materials to read.

Her desire and passion to see us rise and succeed as young women were clearly written all over her face which was exhibited by her closing gift that we were all expected to read the Companies Act and analyse three financial statements from different industries. Great! We cannot wait for Board Competence-2.

Poised for action —we will be rottweilers.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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