Women on the board mean business success

A study has found that female board members operating in executive roles for listed companies have a positive impact on the firm’s stock price confirming that women in leadership positions can boost a company’s performance. According to the study conducted by Thomson Reuters among almost 4100 listed businesses, companies with mixed-gender boards outperformed the MSCI World Index when compared to firms with male-only board members.



However, while the results of this survey clearly indicate the benefits of women in leadership positions, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions in South African companies. The 2013 Grant Thornton International Business Report on women in business released in March this year revealed that only 28% of South Africa’s senior management positions were filled by women, a statistic which has been fixed since 2009.

There are a number of reasons why relatively few women occupy top level positions in South Africa’s boardrooms. While it may seem controversial to say so, many women choose not to occupy higher positions in the business world because of the difficulties involved in balancing a family and a career.

One of the most important factors in being able to strike the correct balance is not just the ability of the woman involved, but perhaps more crucially, the attitude of the employer. It is possible to successfully maintain a career and have a family, but if you choose to do this then it is vital to choose a company that supports your outlook on life.

Women on the board mean business success


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The working environment plays a large role in determining whether a healthy work and home life can be successfully maintained. If you have an unsympathetic manager at work, then it is extremely difficult for a woman to meet business demands at the same time as raising a family, with the result that many women often choose to leave the company.

The first few years of motherhood are already extremely difficult for women, so to juggle this new role and the ordinary pressures of work is hard enough, but most women also have to simultaneously catch up on any developments in the business whilst they are on maternity leave. As a result, it is important to look for an employer that is understanding and makes compromises when possible.

For those women wanting to pursue a top level career, it is important to be highly organised in both your business and personal life, and to have a good support structure in place that can assist with taking care of family needs so you can focus 100% on your work while at the office. It is impossible to have a demanding career, especially if it involved regular travel, without a decent support structure and a very well organised schedule. When it comes to scheduling family time and work time, try not to work long hours but rather put in the extra hours early morning when everyone is still peacefully at sleep.

Never underestimate the impact a successful career may have on the balance of family life – know you will have to make many personal sacrifices to enjoy the thrill of a successful career. There are those occasions where, as a woman, you need to adapt your way of doing things to fit in with the rest of the industry. However, being flexible and open to change are key components for any successful business person.

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It is important, however, that businesses do begin to appreciate the value of having women in executive positions. Women bring a different dynamic to the boardroom and as research proved, can offer a fresh perspective on how business is conducted. However, in order to facilitate further female representation at board level in South Africa, companies need to accommodate the differing needs of women.

Whether this involves flexi time or changes to work procedures, it is in the best interest of the company to accommodate these needs so that it can retain and motivate its top staff, regardless of their gender.

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ABOUT THE WRITER:

Christelle Fourie is the Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, one of South Africa’s leading underwriters specialising in insurance solutions specifically tailored for high net worth individuals. Fourie is notable for being one of only a few women to hold such a position in the South African insurance industry.

Having started her career straight out of Matric at Santam – holding down five separate jobs to make ends meet - by the age of 25, she became the founding Managing Director of underwriting agency Thatch Risk Acceptances and is now building MUA into a force to be reckoned with in the executive personal lines insurance market.

For more information please visit: www.mua.co.za

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