Mar 1, 2024

Women on Boards: An Undeniable Strength

Women on Boards: An Undeniable Strength

The Benefits of Having Female Directors on the Board

In 2023, Harvard Business Review conducted interviews with women and men who have collectively served as directors with over 200 publicly listed companies in the United States and Europe. While prior research has suggested that the diverse cognitive perspectives women directors bring influence board decision-making, the study revealed novel insights as to the underlying mechanisms. 

It was found that women behave in ways contrary to existing board norms. Women come to board meetings highly prepared, willing to acknowledge that they do not know something, ask questions, and get things on the table leading to influence and impact over the dialogue and interactions in the boardroom. 

One woman director noted, “women are the worker bees - the ones that are super-prepared and ready to do the work’. A male director echoed that thought: “women are more attuned directors - those that are prepared and more knowledgeable”.

Another participant in the study noted “I have never sat on a board where a woman says nothing. Whereas I have sat on boards where men say nothing.” And another female director commented. “It is a different atmosphere once there are women in the room…. The men become less competitive, and the women create a more open atmosphere. This makes room for discussion of topics that might not otherwise be discussed”. 

A series of studies over the years have also highlighted the benefits to having women on boards:

  • Companies with more women on their boards financially outperform companies that have no or few women on their boards. *
  • Companies with women in key board roles (such as risk and audit) perform better. **
  • There is a link between more women on boards and good corporate governance credentials.***
  • Companies may reduce their risk of bankruptcy by having at least one woman on their board.****


What percentage of board members are female?

In 2018, Auckland University of Technology reported that 24.1% of directors within New Zealand’s top 100 companies were female. This equated to 149 out of 617 directors, or less than one in four members. It’s a low number but it does have a silver lining. Since 2008, there has been an upward trend in the number of women directors with the total almost tripling within a ten-year time frame.

In 2022, Deloitte (via Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance), reported the global average of women on boards sits at 19.7%. Whilst the increase since their 2019 report was only 2.8%, this increase did indicate the timeline to parity reduced by almost a decade.

This report also noted a clear correlation between women in top leadership roles and women in the boardroom. The most diverse boards tend to be found at companies with women chief executive officers or Chairs. Companies with women CEO’s have significantly more balanced boards than those run by men and the statistics are similar for companies with female Chairs.


Famous female business owners and board members

While many of these females aren’t household names, the companies they are employed by are. Hear us out, these females are not to be overlooked.

Rosalind Brewer
In January 2021, Walgreens (an American pharmacy chain) announced Rosalind Brewer would take over as CEO, and the company's share price jumped 8% in after-hours trading. Prior to this Brewer had served as COO, group president, and a board member at Starbucks, the president and CEO of Sam’s Club (who’s parent company is Walmart), and a board member of Amazon, Lockheed Martin and Molson Coors.

When Brewer took the helm at Walgreens in March 2021, she became the only Black woman CEO of an S&P500 and Fortune 500 company. She was also the first woman and first Black woman to run a division of Walmart.

Mary Barra
Mary Barra has held the CEO position at General Motors since 2014 and has chaired the company’s board since 2016. Barra also serves on the boards of Disney, Duke University and the Detroit Economic Club.

Barra has spearheaded many notable projects and changes in her time at GM motors: in 2016 GM launched the Chevrolet Bolt, the industry’s first all-electric vehicle priced at less than $40k, in 2021 Barra announced GM’s plan to phase out internal combustion engines and manufacture only electric cars by 20235 and has promised that GM will be carbon-neutral at all facilities globally by 2040.

Maxine Brenner
A little closer to home, we have Maxine Brenner, who is a director of Woolworths Group, Telstra, Origin Energy, Qantas, Orica and a member of the University of NSW Council. She also serves as Chairman of the Origin Energy Safety and Sustainability Committee and a member of the Audit, Nomination and Risk Committees. And to be honest, her list of achievements and highly held positions goes on.


Latesha Randall
Even closer to home, we have Latesha Randall, co-founder of Raglan Food Co. Since it’s inception in 2014, Ragland Food Co has gone on to place multiple times on the Deloitte Fast50 list and sold over 1.3 million units in 2021. In 2020 Latesha was named in Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 and has gone on to co-found other sustainable ventures and in turn, became a director across multiple companies.



In conclusion, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the notion that women bring invaluable perspectives and strengths to corporate boardrooms. With companies experiencing enhanced financial performance, better governance, and reduced risk with female representation on boards, it's evident that gender diversity isn't just a matter of equality—it's a strategic advantage. As we celebrate the achievements of remarkable female leaders it's clear that the future of boardroom leadership is increasingly feminine, promising higher returns for all stakeholders.



*McKinsey Quarterly: Is there a payoff from top-team diversity, McKinsey & Company, April 2012

**Adams, R., & Ferreira, D., Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance, Journal of Financial Economics, 2009

***Women on Boards: Not just the right thing…….But the bright thing, Conference Board of Canada, 2002

****Higher heels, lower risk: why women on the board help a company through recession, The Times, 19 March 2009