Ensuring women leaders are not set up to fail

New Women’s Directorship Programme providing insights to help female leaders avoid being set up to fail during times of change

Hong Kong | With women leaders increasingly being called upon to make a positive change and being moved into positions of leadership , it is timely that Harvey Nash, global executive search and leadership consulting firm and The University of Hong Kong Business School (HKU) have again joined forces to launch the Women’s Directorship Programme 2017.

This programme is aimed at supporting the development of female talent as well as ensuring that these women are not being set up to fail.


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A 2013 study,  Above the Glass Ceiling : When Are Women and Racial/Ethnic Minorities Promoted to CEO by Alison Cook and Christy Glass,  found that Fortune 500 companies with weak performance were more likely to promote women and minorities to CEO or board level.

They call this phenomenon the “glass cliff”.

Researchers also speak of ‘status quo bias,’ where organisations only see a need to change patterns of male leadership if they are facing times of trouble.  In fact, it has been said that while women are taking up an increasing number of high-profile roles, many are selected to lead at moments of crisis or periods of weak performance. They call this phenomenon the “glass cliff”. One of the goals of this upcoming Women’s Directorship Programme is to rectify this situation.

This programme will consist of two three-day sessions that take place in May and September 2017. This event and initiatives like this are essential as they aim at negative practices and turn them into opportunities for women to step up and take on leadership roles in any kind of situation.

Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group, said: “This so-called ‘status quo bias,’ makes it much tougher for newly promoted women to demonstrate their talents. The Women’s Directorship Programme, in partnership with The University of Hong Kong, demonstrates Harvey Nash’s commitment to developing the global female talent pool and arming women with the skills they need to succeed in any situation. By empowering female leaders to gain the confidence and skills needed to secure board positions, we can have a lasting impact on the representation of women in leadership roles across the world.”

The programme is now in its fifth year. It has already begun to have an impact –  30 percent of the programme’s alumni having since gained their first boardroom position, serving to make a lasting impact on the worldwide business community.

The programme is supported by senior business leaders, including Donald Brydon, Chairman of the London Stock Exchange, Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Centrica and MasterCard and Raymond Ch’ien, Chairman of Hang Seng Bank, and a distinguished alumni network.

Donald Brydon, Chairman of the London Stock Exchange and Sage Group, Guest Speaker on the Women’s Directorship Programme, said: “Whilst we still have a long way to go in achieving boardroom equality, women are increasingly stepping into roles of power and influence. We need to ensure that when female leaders do break through the ‘glass ceiling’, they have the skills to thrive and make a lasting impact. The Women’s Directorship Programme is a catalyst for this change, bringing together academia and practitioners to share their wealth of knowledge and experience so that female leaders can excel.”

The 2017 Women’s Directorship Programme includes six modules, taught over two three-day sessions (May 25-27 and September 14-16, 2017):

  • Audit and Remuneration Essentials;
  • Strategic Leadership and Networks;
  • Persuasive Communication and Conflict Resolution;
  • Stock Exchange Rules and Market Regulations;
  • Ethics and Compliance; and
  • Board Simulation exercise – led by Donald Brydon, Chairman of the LSE and Sage Group.

Established in 2013, the Women’s Directorship Programme (WDP) is a joint venture between Harvey Nash and The University of Hong Kong, HKU Business School. The certificated programme is designed to equip participants with the skills and knowledge needed to demonstrate they are ready for the responsibilities of the boardroom as a director or non-executive director.  Participants from broad ranging markets and business sectors, including banking and finance, telecoms, insurance, communications and logistics, have taken part in the programme to date. For more information, please visit www.wdpglobal.com

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