A More Diverse Point Of View

When it comes to diversity, boards of directors in the UK still fall short in terms of representing society at large but work is afoot in Birmingham to change that from the ground up.

The Effective Board Member Programme (EBM) is aiming to shake up the composition and diversity of boards across the private, public and voluntary sectors.

It aims to create a pool of competent and capable board members from a range of backgrounds, who can ultimately help redress the directorial balance in terms of age, gender and ethnicity.

The programme, which has a number of different arms, is the brainchild of Karl George, a former Handsworth Grammar School pupil and accountant.

“It’s often said boards of directors are pale, male and stale and one of the things I want to do is really tackle diversity in the boardroom, whether it’s gender, ethnicity or age,” said Mr George.

“If you want to change anything you have to change it at the top of an organisation, though in terms of achieving diversity we still have a long way to go.”

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Creating a better balance on the board

While running a number of successful Effective Board Member (EBM) programmes for young leaders, and expanding them into sport, Karl George knew it was time to address the issue of the lack of women on boards.

There has been much debate regarding the lack of – and in many cases the complete absence of – women on boards, a subject addressed by Lord Davies in his 2011 report Women On Boards.

In the report, Lord Davis said: “At the current rate of change, it will take over 70 years to achieve gender balanced boardrooms in the UK.”

Mr George developed the existing EBM programmes in order to try and help fill this gap.

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Greg Dyke Visits On The Board

Earlier this month, we were privileged to have Chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke join our On The Board session with the current cohort of footballers.

Previously Director General at the BBC, Greg has been the Chief Executive at numerous organisations including the LWT Group, Pearson Television and Channel Five. He also has current roles at HiT Entertainment and has been the Chancellor of the University of York for a number of years.

The FA are a sponsor of the EBM programmes and with his years of experience on boards, Greg was able to share his wisdom and insight with our students as they prepare to take up board appointments once they complete the course.

Over the next few weeks, we will share with you what a few of our current students learned from the session with Greg beginning with Ben Purkiss. Currently a defender at Walsall FC, Ben is also a member of the management committee at The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) who also sponsor On The Board.

Ben said:

For the students of the On The Board Programme seeking positions of governance, the opportunity to listen to somebody of Greg Dyke’s ilk and experience was both insightful and informative.

Throughout Greg’s presentation, which detailed his journey to his current position as the FA Chair, the importance of good governance was repeatedly stressed. Greg has extensive and wide-ranging commercial experience and was keen to emphasise the value of investing time in whatever organisation you represent. In order to govern effectively it is imperative that the director fully understands the requirements of a company and develops an understanding of the company’s aims and objectives. Crucially, not all board members that Greg has encountered had governance training and subsequently lacked familiarity with good governance standards.

With one of the aims of the On The Board Programme being to increase diversity in the boardroom, the support of the national governing body is highly significant. Along with his commitment to good governance practice, Greg reiterated his desire to ensure the FA is more representative of society and hopefully we will see graduates of the course progress to roles within the organisation.

At the PFA we are strong advocates of good governance and work closely with Karl and the Programme to ensure we achieve the highest standards of self-regulation. However, we are always looking to improve and I will be looking to invest even more time in the organisation.

Overall it was an excellent opportunity to listen to first hand insight into the way in which boards operate in practice, the problems they face and notably the relevance of the issues explored on the On The Board programme.

Check back over the next few weeks to see what other on The Board Participants had to say about their session with Greg Dyke!

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Boardroom should be refective of community at large

I am delighted that I have the opportunity to work with The Birmingham Post and several organisations in promoting board diversity. Having been a board member and served many organisations for a number of years, I have continually seen a lack of diversity in the place of influence, which is typically at the top of an organisation.

As a governance consultant and previously as an accountant, I have acquired the skills to contribute to the boards of organisations in different sectors over the past twenty years.

I have observed, like many other leaders in the city, the gaps in board composition. On these boards, I saw for myself the lack of younger faces and women.

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