Women on Board: a business call
hw s13 3

Cécile Coune, CEO Aviabel and Vice Chairwoman of Women on Board
"It is only when smart men join smart women to work together that we start building a truly more intelligent, successful and inclusive society".

At Women on Board (Belgium), we believe that the call for action aiming at more gender balance on the boards of enterprises is first and foremost a business call.

More than half of the talent pool is female. So why ignore it when the time comes to populate economic decision making bodies?

That is the very reason why we created the association Women on Board in Belgium at the end of 2009. We wanted to put forward the argument that indeed, there are enough talented, motivated board-ready women to meet the demand of enterprises (voluntary or otherwise) for more representation of women on their boards. And this applies, whatever their activity, whether in the public or the private sector, be it in listed companies or not.

After 3 years, we are proud to count over 125 fantastic women in our talent pool, with all the core competencies that one can expect from a board director (managerial, financial etc.). In addition, access to this pool is free of any charge. But even that does not seem to be enough. It is very disappointing to see how little effort companies make to recruit directors in a truly objective way, using the available tools to look outside their network of relationships, which is necessarily rather limited (particularly when it comes to women). There is still a long way to go…

Although our association is absolutely not a quota lobby (on the contrary, we keep a totally neutral position on quotas), some people might appreciate why the European Commission is now moving along with a legislative initiative. It appears that the call for voluntary action launched by Mrs Viviane Reding in 2011 was insufficiently followed upon by the business world. At the end of the day, perhaps Commissioner Reding felt that more “incentive” was needed for companies to really get to it. Now, the proposed directive currently aims at quotas in respect of non-executive directors, in traded companies or companies in the public sector only. In addition, the time horizon (2020) seems …, by and large, reasonable.

It is true that, intellectually speaking, one can hardly be “in favour of” quotas (I can hardly say that I am). However, I do want to make things happen. This is also the case of all the great men and women promoting Women on Board, the association that we have started in Belgium and are in the process of making it European with other similar organisations in other Member States.

It is only when smart men join smart women to work together that we start building a truly more intelligent, successful and inclusive society. In that sense, I totally share the views of Mrs Reding and of the European Commission.