As we’ve discussed before, a major factor in the slow pace of progress toward gender parity in the American boardroom is that directors erroneously believe that they can’t find any qualified female candidates to join them, when in fact they may just not be looking in the right places. This myth has inspired initiatives like the Boardlist, which provides a database of highly qualified women, which tech company boards can search for new members. But there’s another challenge when it comes to improving the representation of women on boards: Jena McGregor at the Washington Post highlights a new report that illustrates a major gender gap in how directors perceive the value of gender diversity on the board:
A survey released Tuesday by PwC of more than 800 corporate directors found that just 24 percent of the male respondents believed board diversity improves corporate performance, while an overwhelming 89 percent of female directors believe it does. Meanwhile, just 38 percent of the men said it improves board effectiveness, while 92 percent of women agreed that it does.
That sharp divide reflects a surprisingly high percentage of male directors apparently reticent to embrace diversity’s benefits. “Those numbers are telling us that we still have work to do,” said Paula Loop, who leads PwC’s Governance Insights Center. “Female directors in the boardroom still need to convince their male counterparts that they are improving [performance]. I think the verdict is still out for men.”
One way to interpret the findings, says Loop, is that male board members are saying “we hear you and we hear investors and shareholders telling us we’re looking for a diverse board and we’re acting on that. But we’re not entirely convinced about why we’re doing that.”
If that’s the case, these directors may want to take a look at the growing body of research showing that not only do organizations with women directors tend to be more profitable and have better reputations, women also add value by bringing to the table important decision-making skills that tend to be underrepresented in male-dominated boards.