hedwige nuyens

“I’m passionate about empowering women” Hedwige Nuyens, Chair, European Women on Boards

Hedwige Nuyens is Chair of European Women on Boards (EWOB) and heads up the International Banking Federation representing the banking industry at international level. She is a longstanding advocate for increasing female representation on boards and here she shares her experiences and offers some practical tips for women and organisations looking to achieve more diversity.

“Women don’t want to choose between career and family life anymore. For the past 20 years I’ve been helping women to better understand what it takes to achieve sustainable leadership. My experience has inspired me to help others.

I’m passionate about empowering women. Here’s what I think both women and businesses could be doing differently to develop a more diverse talent pipeline which will result in more women on boards.

Four drivers for change

To create more diverse boards, four issues need to be addressed: corporate policies – and the metrics which support them, national regulatory frameworks, company culture and the way women are supported to achieve their potential.

Confidence and understanding

We hear about women’s lack of confidence in going for senior roles but it’s more than that. Women need to assess their skills, define their pitch, identify who can help them extend their networks and understand how to land the job.

Making learning relevant

The way training is delivered for women needs to be reassessed. Much can be achieved with 20-30 minute private coaching sessions, either one to one or in small groups. Also by focusing on the individual by asking questions and using their answers to provide tailored, practical support. Formats such as podcasts and short films also deliver learning in a more engaging way. Traction comes from making learning relevant to individuals and emphasising the upsides of leadership.

Make networking accessible

Joining groups instantly expands women’s networks, producing a multiplier effect. However, to get engagement from women, networking needs to be personal and accessible, connecting hearts and minds instead of wallets. Holding events on LinkedIn makes them easier to fit into busy work/life schedules and keeping things short has benefits from everyone. Around 1 hour is long enough for a speaker, and extensive Q&A session with in addition 20 minutes for a smaller, private chat room. This is the kind of networking that fits women’s agenda and what they like.

Work top down and bottom up

Setting the tone from the top as well as working from the grassroots is essential. This involves looking at the composition of nomination committees, talent management, appraisal systems, bonus schemes, work/life flexibility and reward and recognition.

Be positive and committed

The Hampton Alexander Review first published in 2018 has helped promote better female board representation and makes the UK is now third in Europe. A lot can change in just of years if the commitment from the top is there. Pfizer is an excellent example where the CEO made diversity a strategic priority, committing to increase the number of women in senior roles from 30% in 2019 to 50% by 2025. By 2021, 40% of its senior leaders were female. That said, it’s easier to change boards than entire workforces – this will take time.”

Other ideas to appeal more to young/female aspiring members is to actively engage with them on social media, respond and reshare their comments, invite them to follow your site and have one free LinkedIn event for aspiring members

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