Board Diversity in Germany and the UK – What Works

The benefits of Board diversity are well known. Despite this, progress is disappointing.

Fidelio is committed to increasing diversity and enhancing Board effectiveness.  Practically, we support Boards in moving the dial on diversity through Search, Evaluation and Development, as well as by shining a light on what works.

To this end Fidelio was pleased to co-host with CMS in Stuttgart the fourth in our series ‘Die Frauenquote – An Update on Diversity in German and UK Boards’.  In particular we asked what could be learned from these two major European economies about increasing the diversity and effectiveness at the top of major companies.

After previous debates in London and Frankfurt, Stuttgart represented a significant location as an industrial powerhouse in Germany.  We were pleased to welcome guests from across Germany, and a panel that included influential voices within German business:

  • Ilse Henne, Member of the Executive Board, Thyssenkrupp Materials Services GmbH
  • Angelika Huber-Strasser, Head of Corporates, KPMG
  • Elke Benning-Rohnke, Vice President, Fidar e.V
  • Dr Philine Erfurt Sandhu, Academic Director, Strategic Competence for Women on Supervisory Boards Certification Programme, University of Applied Sciences Berlin
  • Dr Viktoria Kickinger, Founder and Managing Director, Directors Academy Hamburg

The debate was moderated by Martina Schmid, Partner, CMS, combining a business and legal perspective; and also by Gillian Karran-Cumberlege, drawing upon the UK perspective where Fidelio has been twice accredited for our contribution to gender diversity by the Hampton-Alexander Review.
In the panel discussion we explored:

  1. The different approaches to increasing diversity in the UK and Germany
  2. How the panel rated progress towards diversity in particular in the German market t
  3. And practical steps to move the dial

Seven Practical Steps to Diversity

Our panel in Stuttgart made practical recommendations for Boards committed to building a strong and diverse pipeline, including seven steps to drive diversity:

  • Increased Female Visibility – particularly in the appointment and selection processes.
  • Addressing Culture – including through simple solutions such as celebrating working mothers.
  • Coherent Legislation – ensuring a framework is in place to enable women to flourish in the workplace.
  • International Diversity – benchmarking best practice cross-border and cross-sector to enable governments and companies to learn.
  • Objectivity in Selection and Appraisal – through reducing bias, increasing trust and attracting greater diversity of talent.
  • Institutional Investors – fulfilling a major role in engaging with Chairs on progress towards Board diversity and holding them to account when insufficient progress is made.
  • The Power of Networks – as explored in “A Seat at the Table”, with networks playing a vital role in underpinning Boardroom success.

This translates into a three-phase action plan for Boards:

  1. Focusing on the pipeline.
  2. Building trust in Board composition, Search and succession planning.
  3. Embedding and increasing diversity through Evaluation and Board learning.

Many thanks to CMS for hosting a very energised and committed debate in Stuttgart.  Please click here for a full summary.

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