Toft Group: Female Board Members’ Choice for Representation

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a measure requiring publicly traded companies headquartered in California to place at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. The law also requires companies with five directors to add two women by the end of 2021, and companies with six or more directors to add at least three more women by the end of the same year.

As an executive recruiting firm focused solely on the life sciences and digital health industries, Toft Group is always among the first to acknowledge our industry’s gender gap, especially when it comes to boardroom seats. In 2016, women occupied a mere 10.9% of board positions nationwide at public companies. Statistics like this are beyond frustrating. There are qualified women to fill these rolls, depending upon how they are defined and scoped.

In fact, over 40% of Toft Group’s placements each year are women in leadership positions.

Solutions for Companies

This legislation is going to push companies to look deeper into how they can make diversity a key aspect of the hiring process. Companies are constantly telling us that diversity is a priority, but many don’t know how to put diversity into action.

We suggest you make a commitment to diversity a core value from the top down, and when given the choice of two equally qualified candidates, choose diversity.

Below are several ways that you can recruit qualified women for both your c-suite and board of directors:

  • Recognize that unconscious bias exists and implement unconscious bias training for all company executives and hiring decision makers.
  • Hire an Executive Search firm to take you beyond your typical network. According to a National Association of Corporate Directors survey, almost 70% of respondents acknowledged that their boards used personal networking or word of mouth to identify the candidate pool from which their newest director was chosen. (No wonder there is such limited diversity in the board room!)
  • Start earlier! If you’re just getting your privately-held start-up off the ground, make diversity hiring a priority from day one. Work with search firms who specialize in diversity to make sure you have a strong, diverse pool of candidates. Consider a scalable anti-bias and pro-diversity training program for hiring managers and executives. Also make sure that diversity is in your core values as you create them.

Solutions for Individuals

Some people may not be in full agreement with how the bill was written. However, women should grab this opportunity and take full advantage. This is one step towards working to the gender parity in our industry that is long overdue.

  • Understand that change does not happen overnight. This legislation is not perfect, but the correct conversations are finally taking place. As women, it’s important for us to take an active role in this conversation and educate our peers on how to make gender equality a reality in the C-suite, boardroom and beyond.
  • Expand your network and say an enthusiastic “Yes!” to new opportunities. Female executives and board members are in the highest demand yet- embrace this! You bring an invaluable perspective to the table, and that is finally being recognized.
  • Utilize programs such as Toft Group’s WE CAN™ (Women Executives Career Advancement Network) and Women in Bio’s “Boardroom Ready” programs to prepare you for a seat at the table. These programs prepare you for future roles and connect you with peers that share the same vision for equality.

Evidence shows that companies with diverse executive leadership, including Boards of Directors, see a much higher return on investment overall. Authentically embracing diversity is not only a breath of fresh air for our industry but a savvy business decision as well.