As board gender diversity becomes a priority agenda item for policymakers and business leaders internationally, the critical examination of the business case for board gender diversity in Pakistan merits consideration, states ACCA Pakistan discussion Paper Gender Diversity on Boards in Pakistan. The discussion paper has been conceived and commissioned by IFC.
Even though more women have entered Pakistan’s paid workforce in the last decade, from the small number of professional, qualified and experienced women directors, it appears that there is a need for greater understanding of the potential business case for gender diversity on boards of publicly listed companies. The discussion paper concludes that the value of mixed-group decision making for the reputation, calculated risk-taking and possibly enhanced financial performance of the business needs to be documented and advocated. Business leaders who are already championing gender diversity on boards within their organisations may be encouraged to assume an ambassadorial role, promoting the benefits of gender diversity on boards at public forums. The development and dissemination of the profiles of women who have reached board level or the CEO position on their own merit may also be useful for promoting the business case for gender diversity on boards.
A conclusion of the discussion paper is that the largest companies of Pakistan may take a lead by considering greater representation of qualified, experienced and professionally competent women on boards. This may compel other businesses (including family-owned ones) to evaluate the benefits of having qualified and experienced women on boards. As the discussion paper indicates a perception of a dearth of appropriately qualified, skilled and experienced women directors; a database of existing and prospective women directors could be developed in Pakistan.
One of the conclusions of the discussion paper is that women’s ascent to board positions may be facilitated by organisational support and an environment conducive to career progression. Organisations may like to build support programmes and provide access to role models (men and women), networks and mentors (men and women) to help women middle and senior-level managers to overcome perceived obstacles and to succeed in reaching board positions.
Women may consider joining professional networks and associations as well as creating formal and informal networks that include men and women. Board committees may also play a role in promoting gender diversity on boards. For example, a nomination committee could improve factoring-in of such diversity criteria to their selection and nomination processes. Women are a largely untapped source of talent for boards as non-executive and independent directors. In an environment with a shortage of independent non-executive directors with appropriate skills, the business need for tapping this source may be explored.
‘As policy makers and business leaders are internationally considering a trend for more board diversity (including gender diversity), the examination of the business case for board gender diversity in the context of Pakistan merits consideration. The discussion paper by presenting an overview of the current state of gender diversity on boards in Pakistan aims to initiate a discussion on the future of gender diversity on boards in Pakistan,’ explained Dr Afra Sajjad, Head of Education and Policy Development of ACCA Pakistan.
‘ACCA was the first accountancy body to admit women to its membership, in 1909. In terms of the demographic of ACCA women constitute 43% of ACCA global membership with women accounting for 49 % of those taking the most recent ACCA exams. The discussion paper by presenting a business case for gender diversity based on the premises of fair access and routes to progression endorses ACCA’s core values of opportunity, innovation, integrity and diversity’, commented Arif Masud Mirza, Head of ACCA Pakistan.