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Business Leaders Tackle Gender Imbalance on Boards

Harvey Nash and The University of Hong Kong unveil board preparedness programme to increase the number of women on boards

Hong Kong, 22 January 2013 - Harvey Nash, the leading executive search firm and The University of Hong Kong, Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics, have unveiled their plans to create the world's first certificated, cross-industry, international board preparedness programme for women, to be held in Hong Kong in April 2013.  The Women's Directorship Programme has been created as an answer to the worldwide business community's call to tackle the existing gender diversity imbalance in boardrooms across the globe and invites senior industry leaders to share their knowledge.

Board members today face new challenges and have increased governance responsibilities since new waves of reform swept in.  Directors need to be better prepared - beyond just compliance - to represent the interests of shareholders and stakeholders.  Gender-balanced boards are proven to result in greater business success but women are still hugely underrepresented in boardrooms across the world.  

Harvey Nash and Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics have joined forces to launch the first certificated, cross industry, board preparedness programme in Asia, exclusively for women.  The programme aims to address current and contemporary issues enabling women to be more effective at managing boards, and increasing the supply of board ready women executives across industries.  The programme will be led by a number of esteemed international professors and involve real life case studies and thought leadership delivered by industry leaders who are champions of diversity in the boardroom.

Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group said: "Sustainable business success requires the support of a mature and diverse Board, and gender-balance around the Boardroom table is a key element in this.
"Harvey Nash's partnership with Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics demonstrates our commitment to Asia, its important institutions and in particular, our investment in future female talent.  Although there has been a great deal of talk about gender balance and diversity, we are taking real action to unlock the talent pipeline and enable more senior business women to be successful in winning appointments to company Boards."

Men continue to dominate the top ranks of nearly every firm across the world. Women currently represent less than 10% of all board level positions; although across the world, they make up more than 45% of the workforce.  This gender imbalance in the executive suite costs firms money.  Companies that fail to retain and promote women to top leadership positions experience a significant drain on resources and talent.  A McKinsey study found that companies with the highest female representation in top management positions achieved returns on equity 35% higher than companies with the lowest female representation.

Companies frequently bemoan the lack of a skilled talent pool of women - though research consistently demonstrates this is not the case.  Female leaders are simply more hidden and less inclined to put themselves forward as they do not feel empowered or ready to take on a board role.  Many current female leaders highlight a lack of confidence as a key barrier to their progression. This new initiative is designed to specifically support female executives rise to the boardroom.

Professor Amy H. Lau, Director of Executive Education, Faculty of Business and Economics, said: "We recognise there is no one size fits all solution when it comes to addressing the lack of women in leadership positions across the world and there is no magic strategy for a woman to reach the top in her career.  However this programme is aimed at helping participants develop their own set of strategies tailored to their career ambitions, situation and personality, recognising that these will evolve over time as new challenges arise and elements in their lives change.  We want to drive this agenda forward and demonstrate our commitment to making a change."

The programme content will include five modules, taught over two three-day sessions (April 11-13 and June 6-8 2013):

  • Audit and Remuneration Essentials
  • Persuasive Communication and Conflict Resolutions
  • Stock Exchange Rules and Regulations
  • Ethics and Compliance
  • Strategic Leadership

This interactive programme will include involvement from key industry leaders, such as Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP; Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of Centrica and President of the Confederation of British Industry; Donald Brydon, Chairman of Smiths Group / Sage Group; Teresa Ko, China Chairman of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Charles Li, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd; Kevin Taylor, President APAC, BT Group; Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman, MasterCard and Umran Beba, APAC Regional President of PepsiCo.

Sir Roger Carr, Chairman of Centrica and President of the Confederation of British Industry said: "We are all aware there is no one perfect solution to tackling the gender imbalance in boardrooms across the world but we know that action needs to be taken to make a change.  This programme is a huge step in the right direction.  Women need to feel empowered to put themselves forward for senior roles.  Board members need to have a broad skill set.  As a group, they need to reflect all the stakeholders of a company - whether it's the customers, the employees, or indeed, the shareholders. Women undoubtedly improve the dynamics and the atmospherics of the boardroom, and in so doing, help the quality of decision-making."

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman, MasterCard, said: "Tackling the current massive gender imbalance in the boardroom is top priority for businesses around the globe.  Boardrooms need to adequately represent their consumer base in order to be most effective.  We believe that diversity sits at the root of innovation and we wholeheartedly support this new initiative to develop female leaders."

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About Harvey Nash:

Established in 1988, Harvey Nash has supported many of the world's leading organisations to recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive and technology driven world.

With 4,000 professionals in 40 offices across the USA, Europe and Asia the Group has the reach and resources of a global organisation, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers its people to respond to constantly changing client needs. We work with clients, both large and small, to deliver a portfolio of services: executive search, professional recruitment and outsourcing.

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About Executive Education of the Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Hong Kong:

Established in 1998 under the auspices of the Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Hong Kong, Executive Education specialises in providing Executive Programmes to executives of local, regional and international private and public organisations.  With the support of our faculty members' expertise in the broad spectrum of business areas, we recognise the latest development as well as the challenges and opportunities in today's volatile global economy.  We have also partnered with the best universities in the world by offering cutting-edged customised corporate programmes for senior executives and contributing to bring their organisations to new heights and achieve outstanding performance. 

The Faculty of Business and Economics was founded in 2001 through the amalgamation of the School of Business and the School of Economics and Finance. It aims to be a leading institution for business and economics education and research in Asia and offer top quality degree programmes and executive education programmes that serve the needs of the business sector and the community. Its MBA full time programme, offered in partnerships with CBS and LBS has a strong Asia and China focus and was ranked Asia's no. 1 in the World MBA Rankings released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It is the only programme in Asia and Australasia that make the world's top 50 three years in a row.  Furthermore, its EMBA-Global Asia is an Asian extension of the top quality programme (EMBA-Global) in the world.

The University of Hong Kong has gained international recognition for its accomplishments as a research-led comprehensive university.  In 2012, it was ranked no. 23 by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings and no. 35 by Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. The Faculty of Business and Economics continues to attract top students from Hong Kong and beyond. It admits the highest proportion of non-local undergraduate students amongst all the 10 Faculties. Three of its undergraduate programmes are ranked among the University's top 10 programmes.  It is fully accredited by the European Quality Improvement Systems (EQUIS). Its accounting and business programmes are also accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). For more information, please visit: 

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Rob Grimsey
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Tel: +44 20 7333 0033