New list raises issue of gender equality on boards

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business Reporter

Friday, July 13, 2012    

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A lobby group pushing for an improved gender balance across boards of directors and commissions has published a list of over 50 women who can do the job.

The excuse of unavailability of women to sit on boards no longer holds merit, said Carol Narcisse, a member of the steering committee of the 51 per cent Coalition: Development and Empowerment through Equity, which compiled the list.

"To ensure good corporate governance, there needs to be equitable representation and encouragement of gender balance," she said.

There are some 99 boards to be filled in the private sector, while there are at least 25 in the public sector.

The most effective boards comprise a diverse group of people with a range of experiences, knowledge and skills, said Sandra Glasgow, chief executive officer of the PSOJ.

Moreover, "boards with more women surpass all-male boards in their attention to audit and risk oversight and control", according to a study conducted by the Conference Board of Canada in 2002.

To be clear, the PSOJ does not agree with setting a quota for the number of women who sit on boards, but the group has established a ratio they think can be used as a guideline.

"No group should have more than 60 per cent or less than 40 per cent representation of any gender on its board," she said.

Adding that the Jamaican population has struck an equal balance between men and women, Naricisse said "a true democracy reflects the 60:40 ratio".

A check done by the Jamaica Observer showed that only four of the 25 public sector boards approved by Cabinet last February had a representation of 40 per cent or more women, and on an average are made up by 24 per cent females.

On the other hand, the e-Learning Jamaica Company was the one entity to go the other way, with two-thirds if its board being made up by women.

"The issue is not just about placing women on boards, it is the value that women, through their skills and professionalism, can add to the boards and commissions of companies," said Yaneek Page, president of Women Business Owners (WBO), a group of women business owners. She is also listed among the women who are eligible to serve in boards.

These women have received ongoing training in corporate governance for public and private sector boards, received exposure to the Public Management and Accountability Act and have been encouraged to network with present and past board members of companies, according to Narcisse.

The list of women was formulated for the Coalition after consultation with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) and WBO. It has been forwarded to government ministries.

For private sector companies, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) showed its support to the movement by publishing the complete list on its website.

Neville Ellis, senior marketing officer of the JSE, said the company's role in ensuring gender balance is making it accessible to companies.



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