Seven Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards – “VIEWS FROM THE TOP AND HOW TO GET THERE”

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, and has been observed since in the early 1900’s. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.

On 8 March, thousands of events will be held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.

The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

In the UK women tend to have a hell of a lot more equality than many other women internationally with education, free speech, driving, access to all industries and more. However, one area that we are stil lacking is equality in the boardroom, which has been a popular subject this past couple of years.

On a global scale women outnumber men on this planet. Nationally, women are just as successful in universities as their male counterparts and even closer to home; women are more likely to be responsible for the day-to-day running of household budgets up and down our country. So why then is it that women are so outnumbered in the corporate boardrooms throughout the UK Plc?

Dr Yvonne Thompson MBE.
Photo courtesy Dr Yvonne Thompson.

With two Phd Hons in Global Diversity, and Business Enterprise tucked under her belt, Dr. Yvonne Thompson’s CBE broke this down in her book, ‘7 Traits of highly successful women on Boards – Views from the top and how to get there’.

“If you gather the collective wisdom of people who have made it in life you start to see a trend”.

Thompson decided to take a refreshing look at this social conundrum, not through the usual discourse of statistical analysis, causality and correlation, but the other side of the coin, through the lenses of 22 women who are the exception to the rule in occupying serious positions on the highest authority in the management of a corporation. The Boardroom. Thompson says, “These are not role models, they are Real models. They live and breath the boardroom fight every day, whether they know it or not, just by being there.”

I was intrigued to find out the quick-win bullet points from all her research so grilled her over a cup of tea and biscuits.

Dr. Thompson’s says she is “laying down a challenge to society, to provide a level playing field so that our young women with potential to be future leaders, can be the confident citizens of Europe, including possibility of being on the Board of a national or international corporation, and not be excluded like so many w omen of this generation are, purely on the grounds of her gender”.

However, she does not exclude men. In fact Dr. Thompson actively courted the attention of three very powerful men who have collectively and individually moved the dial on gender equality in the Boardroom. Of course there are many more than a few good men, and Dr. Thompson rather sagely enlists these men of distinction as ‘agents of change’ to reach out to other men. After all, if these Board positions are totally occupied by men, their hearts and minds need to be changed too in order for progress on the conversation to be made.

Via interviews that Thompson conducted with 22 business women over a year, who serve on corporate boards, she asked them about their own experiences of how they climbed the corporate ladder, any obstacles (gender roadblocks) and how they got over them, their inspirations and their favorite leaders, to their late night and early morning rituals that keep them on point.

Dr. Thompson then went on to develop 7 key characteristics that these 22 women espoused within the acronym of and also offers 7 top tips – one under each characteristic or trait. Below are Yvonne Thompsons L.E.A.D.E.R.S top tips.

1- Leadership. Top Tip: – Create trust and fellowship. How to hone your leadership skill, how to find out which style suits you best, which leaders do they most admire, and influenced their style.

2- Education. Top Tip: – Don’t be afraid of the 3Rs–Reading, Writing & Arithmetic. Engage in life-long learning. How important it is for us to encourage young women to take STEM subjects from the start, to ensure they have the educational status quo to compete with male counterparts.

3 – Advice. Top Tip: – It’s not information, but how you use it that is powerful. How important it is to give advice and pass on boardroom intelligence to others, and more so how import is it to take advice.

4 – Diversity. Top Tip: – The Recent McKinsey Diversity Matters report shows that diverse boards are better boards. If one of the largest management consultancy firms can show the impact diverse boards make against non-diverse boards, the issue can now be seen to impact the company’s bottom line.

5 – Emotional Intelligence. Top Tip: – Stop, Think then Act. How you internalize and deal with matters that affect you in the work place, shows a level of emotional intelligence, for good or for evil – EQ (Emotional Quotient) can be the leveler that decides how you progress up the corporate ladder.

6 – Resilience. Top Tip: – Resilience is the trait that is a major player, not only to get from your entry point to the room at the top, but also to keep you there. This is the trait that most women seem to have the most to comment on. Know hot to apply resilience, and how it can help you to get what you want.

7- Sidebar. Top Tip: – What you do off duty affects, and can reflect on what you do when you are on duty. Let it go, re-energize and be ready for Monday morning. Share amazing stories of what these women do outside of work to help them, have the energy, the mindset, and the resilience to go back to a tough, male dominated world, and stay there. From part time vicar, to skiing trials, mountain bike racing, and even golfing tournaments – these ladies at the top know how to refuel their week, by what they do at the weekend.

So if you’re a boss, invest in your female employees, this is not just a gender numbers game. It is about the richness of the board as a whole, the combined contribution of a group of people with different skills and perspectives to offer. A board full of people with different experiences, backgrounds and life styles will enrich a business in many ways.

So this March 8, reach out to a woman who has had a positive impact on your life both in business and personally.

Happy International Women’s Day 2015!.

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