Secretaries advocate gender, youth inclusiveness on boards

By Rukayat Moisemhe

Corporate Secretaries International Association (CSIA) have emphasised the need for a more diversified gender and youth balanced board to promote organisational success and economic development.

They gave the advice at a webinar with the theme: “Leading the Change in Board Diversity” on Tuesday.

The webinar was organised in collaboration with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) and Better Boards.

Bode Ayeku, president, CSIA, stressed the need for transformation from the current homogeneous board dynamics to a more diversified and inclusive board.

The CSIA president noted that the webinar was necessary to help boards rebuild their strategies to better manage organisational affairs and respond proactively to dynamic and evolving global mechanisms.

“Organisations must reassess board compositions and competencies to implement strategies that engender productivity and achieve mandates.

“They must continue to monitor global trends and employ best practices to drive organisational goals and all round economic development,” he said.

Mrs Uto Ukpanah, Company Secretary, MTN Nigeria, stated that there was an appreciable level of consciousness and deliberate effort to be gender diversified across boards in Nigeria.

She noted that sector regulators, particularly the financial services sector, were quite influential in driving the inclusion with about six banks in Nigeria chaired by women.

Ukpanah, however, stressed that opportunities for youth diversity and balance existed in the country with the avalanche of emerging technology companies.

She said boards needed to be populated across generation to enjoy value addition.

The MTN company secretary stated that areas such as Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG), cyber security, technology adoption, amongst other factors, must be considered in sourcing boards.

“The landscape in Nigeria is looking very positive across sectors and the financial services sector have had a headstart and have been very consistent but beyond gender, there’s still a lot to be done.

“Nigeria is, however, a big hub for tech companies which means a thriving youth hub and, therefore, there’s need for boards with more young directors to infuse that diversity.

“MTN has set gender targets for all upcoast for up to 50 per cent representation but generational equality is also very important.

“The youth want to be heard, they may look different but they want to be heard and they bring a lot of value and with tech and financial services competing, you need people that bring that diverse knowledge,” she said.

Ms Gillian Meller, Legal and Governance Director at MTR, Hong Kong, noted that the level of women representation in Hong Kong boards remained pretty poor with only one in seven directors as women, and one third of listed companies without women on boards.

She, however, noted that there was reason for hope with the level of increasing focus on the issue as the country’s stock exchange published changes in listing rules on diversity.

“Female board representation has risen by only 4 per cent but with effect from this year, boards must appoint directors of different gender latest by 2024 for any listed company.

“There are plenty of high quality candidates and what needs to be done is to connect these women to the opportunities that exist.

“Boards need to identify the aspect of diversity that may be relevant to their staff, community, stakeholders and must understand the data of the people they have within the organisation.

“There’s indeed that need to look at the different levers that can be pulled to improve diversity and inclusion,” she said.

Mr Devendra Deshpande, president, Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), said the country had since 2014 ensured that there was at least one female director on its boards.

“There have also been changes in our laws to include technical points to accommodate appointment of independent directors,” he said.

Mr Mohammad Sanaullah, Lead Consultant, Mohammad Sanaullah and Associates, Bangladesh, said the situation in his country was gradually improving as government encouraged more female participation across sectors. (NAN)