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When it comes to board membership, corporations are facing two potentially serious talent deficits. First, at a time when technology innovation is impacting nearly every aspect of nearly every industry, technology expertise is significantly underrepresented on corporate boards. An Accenture survey of 518 Forbes Global 2000 companies across thirty-nine countries revealed that only ten percent have board members who possess technology expertise. Second, while organisations and society champion the importance of gender parity in the workplace, women are considerably underrepresented on corporate boards. According to the Catalyst 2015 census, women hold only twenty percent of the board seats among S&P companies.
What the statistics say
When you take a look at the financial services industry, the statistics are equally concerning. For example, in research covering more than one hundred of the world’s largest banks, Accenture discovered the following:
- Only six percent of all board members had professional technology backgrounds.
- Forty-three percent of the banks didn’t have any board members with professional technology backgrounds.
- Thirty percent of the banks had only one board member with a professional technology background.
- Only three percent of the banks had CEOs with professional technology backgrounds.
And though strides have been made within the financial services industry to increase female representation on boards and executive committees, there is evidence that progress is still very slow. One estimate projects it could take until 2048 for female representation to reach thirty percent.
The impact of these statistics is compounded when you take into account the fact that the financial services industry is doing a very poor job, compared to other industries, of placing women technology experts on their boards. In a ranking of fifteen industries, Accenture found that within the banking sector, only eight percent of female bank board members have technology expertise, and within the insurance sector, the percentage falls to two. The one bright spot is capital markets and diversified financials, where there are more female than male board members who are technology experts.
Solving two problems with one solution
What is interesting to note is that in general, women board members are more likely to have technology expertise than their male counterparts. Accenture research shows that overall, sixteen percent of female board members possess technology expertise as compared to only nine percent of their male counterparts. This poses an interesting prospect. Could financial services firms resolve two talent deficits at once by actively soliciting female technology experts to sit on their boards? What if firms took a step beyond that and concertedly encouraged women to develop their technology expertise at any stage in their career?
At a time when technology developments are putting tremendous pressure on the financial services industry, it makes great sense for firms to seek out and place technology expertise at the pinnacle of their leadership structures. As firms seek to bring gender parity to the organisation, it makes even more sense to include board membership as an opportunity to achieve that parity.
As we know from my earlier series on gender disparity in the workplace, digital fluency is a gender equality accelerator. Thus, technology expertise is becoming a competitive differentiator for women. Not only that, encouraging technology expertise in general among female talent, both existing and potential, could yield great rewards for an industry struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of technology innovation and the industry transformation it’s driving.
In my next post, I’ll share the impacts of technology innovation on the financial industry and why it’s imperative that financial services firms strive to increase technology expertise throughout the organisation.
To learn more about technology and women in the financial services boardroom, please see: