Is the female brain the secret weapon of the best boards?

Head Gear

A recent article in the Evening Standard suggests it could be, saying that the female brain might be ‘the boardroom's largest untapped resource’.

Traits more common in men – and particularly senior businessmen – than their female counterparts, can make boards rather one-sided affairs, subject to groupthink and other processes that prevent well-rounded decision making.

Adding a female viewpoint can help to balance the board’s composition, adding an often-contrarian view, as well as providing other benefits.

How is the typical board made up?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the majority of directors are male. This FT article quotes research showing that 29% of new board hires in 2016 were women.

There are other traits common to board members too.

Do women help boards perform better?

The Standard article quotes neuroscientist Tara Swart, who claims that boardrooms are severely lacking female characteristics such as empathy, intuition, and creativity.

The benefit of a female mind is, according to Swart, ‘not about being compassionate — it's about understanding what's going on between pairs or groups of people’.

We have looked before at the way decisions are made, and the ways that you can help your board make quicker, better choices. You can read much more on this in our blogs on how to stop social processes undermining your board’s decisions and how situational intelligence can help boards make the best decisions.

The science behind situational intelligence, in particular, plays well to female decision-making processes. The article says that women are less likely to make a decision based on incomplete information; which is exactly what situational intelligence – the art of using all information at your disposal when considering decisions – is designed to help with.

How can your board get the edge on decision making?

Maybe you already have strong female representation on your board. Maybe you are unlikely to change the diversity balance any time soon. Whatever your situation, there are ways you can help you directors to make decisions. Key to success is the way you share and present the information members need.

This might mean collating previous papers and relevant corporate information online, via a board portal. It might see you harnessing the management information available via automated workflows, financial planning systems or other platforms. However you choose to gather the information – your members need the complete picture if they are to make informed decisions.  

Make it easy to read and understand

Your board packs need to be easy to navigate and read – whether online or in hard copy. Consider offering a choice of delivery methods to account for all your members’ preferences. And ‘signpost’ your papers clearly, so readers can identify the most important information.

Give everyone the necessary information in good time

Get all your members on the same page by giving them the information they need, and sufficient time to digest it. Ensure board packs are sent out in     
good time, so that your members can interrogate the data you’re sharing with them.  

To see how efficient boards work in practice, you can download a free case study on how Scottish Building Society made their meetings more efficient, and their board packs more professional. It’s available here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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