It’s a little over a year since you launched the Women For the Board Programme. Four cohorts later, can you summarise the journey you have been through?
It has been a wonderful journey of learning, growth and change. All the participants take away new knowledge and skills from the programme. In its own way I think the programme has had an impact on everyone who has been involved – the participants, the facilitators and presenters – all of whom are active board members – as well as the business development team here at Westminster Business School.
You are deeply involved in each session, with each speaker and the participants. How do you see the women grow over the six months the programme runs?
When you attend Women for the Board change is integral and taken for granted. The range of experiences over the six months affect the participants in different ways. The programme impacts on their view of themselves, how they value the skills they have, and those they acquire. I have seen how participants’ aspirations become much higher as their confidence in their abilities increases. And, each group develops a strong network which is expanded and enhanced through the private LinkedIn group available only to participants and contributors.
How has the programme evolved over the past year?
The programme has evolved considerably, and continues to do so. I’ll give you three examples of changes to date. Firstly, although we already cover the legal responsibilities of non-executive directors and trustees, the next Women for the Board Programme will also include a session on managing legal risks – including directors’ responsibilities in relation to corporate manslaughter. As more and more adverts for directors and trustees include a requirement for experience of, and a contribution to fundraising, we are including an exploration of what this means at a strategic level and how, as a trustee or non-exec director, you might be asked to contribute. And, last, but not least, our finance session is now facilitated by two women who were amongst the first cohort, and whose experience and expertise is greatly valued.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about Women for the Board?
Participants particularly value the mentoring/coaching we offer as part of the programme. All the women have the opportunity of four free sessions of coaching or mentoring during their attendance on the programme. Mentors are identified according to each woman’s personal aims and ambitions. We also offer participants optional Board Strengths workshops, media training and a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiling package. These are proving very popular. . Finally, we have upgraded our session on engaging with social media, and now provide all participants with a professional head-shot taken by John Cassidy, The Head-Shot Guy.
As all the research shows, organisations with women on the board perform better. Do you think companies are doing enough to encourage more women to take their seats?
The diversity of board membership improves the performance of a board. This has been demonstrated through a number of recent research reports. Diversity is more than just having a gender mix of members. However, once there are more women on boards diversity should improve and become even more meaningful. Companies have to some extent been pressurised, quite rightly, into changing their membership to include more women. Now we need to see feedback and recognition from them that performance, decision making and risk awareness are all improving – all of which should add to shareholder value – the priority for most companies. I’m optimistic, but not unrealistic and hope the case for diversity in board membership will be taken for granted in months rather than years. The trail is blazed and the Women for the Board programme is at the forefront of contributing to this.
Women For the Board, is not the only programme that you are involved with. What other exciting Leadership projects you are working on?
In January 2016 the new MSc Leadership will start. This is a very exciting and innovative 18 month master’s degree programme for experienced managers, for leaders and aspiring leaders who want to have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of ways to resolve the issues they face in the workplace. Participants will work with work-based projects – either projects they are currently engaged with, or those they will be developing in the near future. By bringing their practice to the sessions we will be able to develop personalised learning and development strategies, which meet their individual needs. The course takes place in blocks of three days, each of which will include a facilitated Action Learning Set. It is also worth noting that for this first cohort the fees are reduced so the course is a bargain for anyone looking to develop their leadership role and skills. Alongside the masters degree, we are running a series of half day open workshops which offer a different view of leadership and, at the same time, provide a swift injection of the latest thinking from a range of experienced consultants and academics.
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