By Lynne Cadenhead
Lack of diversity is a problem…
Boards are the mind and will of a company, and they perform better when they include the best people coming from a range of backgrounds and perspectives. The boardroom is where all strategic decisions are made, risk overseen and governance applied. Therefore, it’s vital that an effective and balanced board consists of a diverse blend of high-quality individuals bringing a mix of experience, skills and backgrounds to the table.
Women bring specific benefits to companies, yet women still remain woefully under-represented in the board rooms of most UK companies and organisations. At our current rate of change, it’s going to take over 70 years to achieve gender-balanced boards in the UK! This despite the fact that various studies have shown companies with more women on their boards perform better operationally and provide a better return on investment.
The value of your unique perspective…
I remember the first board role I had about 20 yearsago. I turned up, shaking with trepidation, surrounded by some well-known, influential captains of industry, squeaking out answers every time I was asked to comment. After a few meetings, the Chairman took me aside and told me, quite directly but very tactfully, that I wasn’t contributing as much as he thought I would. I replied that I felt quite intimidated by the depth of knowledge and experience of others around the table and I just couldn’t match that. “Mmm,” he said “but you’re not here to be the same as them or say the same things as they say. I brought you on board to be different because you are different.”
And that was my first lesson in the importance and benefits of board diversity – a balanced board has diversity of thoughts, experience, skills, knowledge, and gender – and that is good for business. I overcame my fear, found my voice, brushed up on my governance knowledge, and never looked back. And didn’t squeak anymore either!
Teaching Board Governance:
Fast forward to today and I have served on over 30 boards, every one different and each a rewarding learning experience. I continually update my knowledge and board skills to stay ahead of the game and be open to all opportunities that come my way. And I want to see the boards that I sit on become gender balanced.
To this aim, I have worked closely with Edinburgh Napier University to develop their innovative Leadership in Board Governance Programme. Armed with up to date knowledge and skills, and applying a healthy dose of common sense, no matter what their background, age or experience, there is a board opportunity out there for every woman (and of course men too…). It is time for women to step up, push any fear aside and contribute in a meaningful way for their own personal benefit and that of our country and society.
Believe me, a board role is truly a career and life-enhancing experience, and it’s never too early to start your board career – my latest appointment to a board I chair is an 18-year-old schoolgirl!
So, please join us on the Leadership in Board Governance course this autumn. I wonder what your first board role will be?
The Leadership in Board Governance course is open to all applicants regardless of gender identity. The course will equip you with the necessary knowledge, skills, attitude and support to ensure you are ‘board ready’. Find out more here.
About Lynne Cadenhead:
A serial entrepreneur, Lynne has over 20 years’ investment experience, investing in, mentoring and nurturing a range of early stage technology and retail companies throughout the UK. She has worked with a wide portfolio of technology companies – from pharmaceuticals and polymers to prosthetics and optics – and has also managed two early stage technology venture capital funds, served on over 30 boards and started up her own games company.
Lynne served as a member of the Scottish Executive Scottish Industrial Development Advisory Board (SIDAB) for eight years and was previously Chairman of Connect, the Scottish technology networking organisation. She was also an early investor and first Chairman of Touch Bionics, the world-leading upper limb prosthetics company, recently sold for £27.5 million.
Currently Lynne is involved with several early stage technology companies as director and investor, mainly in the fields of cyber security and artificial intelligence. She recently started a new personal branding company, whilst continuing with her pioneering work in leadership in board governance.
She is also a long-standing member of the Edinburgh Napier University Campaign Advisory Board, Chairman of UNICEF Scotland Advisory Board and Chairman of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the community investment company which works to unlock the economic potential of women in business.