“Technical skills have always been in demand, but Boards need to create a culture, an ecosystem, around digital and digital thinking and this means increasing their functional diversity. If organisations are not disrupting their industries through digital innovation then they will be disrupted – so Boards need to keep pace to survive.”
These are the words of Harvey Nash, in “Diversifying Diversity – the next Board frontier”, who also mentions that those with digital expertise, capable of getting ahead of the game on digital technology, are yet to be effectively included in boards as technology “does not have the history and framework of qualification and knowledge of, say, finance that has been bedded into Boards for centuries”.
At Gapsquare, a tech-based data-analysis company that is working to end the gender pay gap, this is interesting for two reasons:
Harvey Nash notes that whilst the world moves rapidly in terms of digitisation and technology, boards seem to be moving slow. As Nash puts it “Put simply, digital is a relatively new discipline and supply lags behind the market need.” In a digital, technological world, are boards getting out of step with the pace of change? It’s time for us to keep up with developments, and seek out the diverse talents emerging with digitisation. But there is no reason to believe that boards cannot and should not be simultaneously adapting to a more technological and more gender diverse world.
Nash argues that “diversity has become a broader issue than that of gender”, that gender is not the crucial issue for boards anymore; we would argue that progress in all forms, including in an understanding of an ever more technological world, can and should be inclusive of gender diversity. The ability to consider issues from a broad range of perspectives is essential to keeping boards ahead of the game in how a company is run. At present women represented “29 per cent of hires to UK boards last year down from 32.1 per cent in 2014” and only “8% of FTSE directors are non-white”. For us, technological developments are the key solution to these issues and should go hand in had with a greater range of viewpoints in the upper echelons of a business.
Is it possible that the gender pay gap and lack of cultural diversity is another symptom of a world that is not keeping on top of digitisation? A board, for example, behind on digital progress, is not representative of the world around them any more than a non gender or ethnically diverse board would be. We’d argue that if boards think fast in a changing world, they would inevitably include members of more diverse groups and those with a range of experience.
In a digital, technical, global world, are boards several steps behind? It’s time for us to keep up with developments, and seek out the diverse talents of a digital age. Gender-equality and technological awareness don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Gapsquare, for example, aims to utilise its technological expertise to drive gender diversity in business. Women, minority groups and those from a range of backgrounds, we would argue, should be inherently included more in a fast-paced digital age especially as, right now, it has never been easier to do so.
“Currently amongst CEOs and Chairs of FTSE 100 companies, there are twice as many men called John as there are women. We have been unable to make much progress on this issue because of our subconscious bias and the way we view executive roles and career progression. We have reached an important point when technology can help us reach inclusion at different levels much faster”
Gapsquare CEO Dr. Zara Nanu.