Catherine Zhu is the managing partner of Egon Zehnder in Hong Kong.
Women also need to change their mindsets if female board representation is to increase
Women are woefully under-represented on Hong Kong’s corporate boards: only 11.6 per cent of board directors from companies on the Hang Seng Index are female.
That must change. Research studies show conclusively that the diversity of perspective created from having more female directors drives stronger board governance and better corporate results.
Last week, a bold target for board gender diversity was announced by the 30% Club Hong Kong, an association of local businesses. By 2020, women should make up at least 20 per cent of member companies’ boards.
More than 200 leaders gathered to affirm this goal. One was Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, an independent director of HSBC and other locally based companies. She inspired us with her advocacy of the value of diversity – and her vision of Hong Kong leading by example.
I walked out confident that glass ceilings would soon be shattering all around us. But my very next conversation brought me down to earth, when I asked a senior executive about her appetite for board membership. She replied that, for her, a directorship was 10-20 years away, and she had much to achieve before then.
Many female leaders feel they need to be over-prepared for board roles, and are concerned about taking on too much. Male candidates, by contrast, are typically more confident about stretching themselves. Achieving the “20 by 20” gender diversity target therefore requires not just a shift in the approach by companies, but also in the minds of women themselves.
That shift starts with reframing your identity. If you see yourself as a future board director, others are more likely to see you in that light too. Just as important is to appreciate the qualities that make up your potential as a leader – your curiosity, insight, determination, and ability to engage teams. Those matter as much or more as the experience on your résumé.
Play your part by changing the world around you – and by challenging your own assumptions as you do so.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Getting on board.