• Improving Corporate Governance: AmCham, Wil Network, Administration Moderne

    October 06 2011, 08:15 - 08:15
    Location: The event is hosted by Swisslife Banque Privée: 7 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris

    On 6 October, over 70 high-profile attendees joined us at Swisslife Banque Privée to discuss and propose solutions to improve governance in the context of the financial crisis, which go beyond the sole use of quotas on Boards.

    The first roundtable on ‘Economic, Social and Financial Governance. The New Models of Governance, New Opportunities for Women’ was moderated by WIL President, Thaima Samman and touched upon policy and theoretical issues regarding governance, in particular diversity on boards.

    Eugenia Bieto, Director General of ESADE, the only woman managing a business school in Europe, gave a comprehensive explanation on women’s ‘relational’ style of leadership, which proves to be the modern and efficient way of leading. Another topic tackled by Director Bieto was the issue of curriculum and behavior;  girls, who usually  prove to have the widest knowledge and skills in the class, sometimes lag behind in the professional world, where creativity and charisma is as much important.

    Ramon Fernandez, General Director for the French Treasury and Economic Policy, explained the measures taken by the French Treasury to increase women’s participation in management positions, perceived as a best practice case within the French administration. According to Mr Fernandez, in order to advance gender equality, there is a need to adopt proactive policy, as well as nourish the talent pipeline at all career stages.

    Paulina Dejmek, Member of Cabinet of Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier, stressed that it is the lawmakers’ duty to take action in order to enhance diversity at Board and executive levels, pointing out the suggestions received through the Commission’s recent public consultation on improving corporate governance. In particular, banks will be required, most probably through regulatory measures, to implement a strategy on diversifying their governance and be more transparent in terms of decision-making.

    Agnès Bricard, President of the High Council of the French Institute of Chartered Accountants, declared herself a strong supporter of gender quotas as necessary means of speeding up the process of modernizing the society. Reflecting upon the different gender policies adopted in France and in Norway in the ‘70s, Ms. Bricard stressed that these diverging actions also led to discrepancies in the number of women in leadership. Norway’s results should be convincing enough to support the implementation of gender quotas.

    The second roundtable discussed best practices of supporting women’s access to leadership positions and was moderated by Nathalie Wright, Public Sector Lead of Microsoft France.

    Dunya Bouhacene, Partner at Women Equity for Growth, noted that while women-led businesses manage to attract 35% less capital than men-led businesses, they are also 12% more profitable. Mrs. Bouhacene stressed that the political leaders should pass other regulations to promote the gender mix, as well as nominate more women in political roles to pave the way for other actors of society.

    Edward Arkwright, Director of Strategy of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, explained how  the bank’s strategy is to identify and to retain talented women and to build a female leadership pipeline. The current regulatory environment will be used as a tool  to appoint  female talents to companies where CDC sit on the board during the next 10 years, to prepare a generation of women to be eligible at the highest level of CDC’s hierarchy.

    Pierre Alégoet, high-ranking official at the General Secretariat of the French government (who replaced Jérôme Filippini, Deputy Secretary General of the French Government), spoke about the government’s plan to promote women in the first 500 management positions of the public sector. In coordination with other ministers, the General Secretariat will define a common profile to these management positions and build together the pipeline of competencies.

    Eric Boustouller, President of Microsoft France, spoke about diversity as part of his companie's CSR and business strategy. Managers are actively encouraged to create an environment that integrates more women, by deciding upon a specific yearly gender diversity objective with his supervisor. He believes that some processes need to be strengthened, such as supporting women’s comeback after maternity leaves or offering internal and external coaching opportunities for women.

    The debate was lively and intense, showing the passions but also the impatience of the audience, commited to improving the current situation and wanting to see real changes in terms of gender diversity. Kudos for those who showed concrete action plans with mandatory measurements and adjustments when not efficient enough.

    To conclude, it is clear that diversity can lead to strengthening corporate governance and many of the speakers believe that lawmakers should take action to enhance it at Board and executive levels. Gender quotas are a big step towards reaching a more even representation of men and women on high-level positions; however it is only one solution to a more complex issue. Political pressure and clear policies need to continue to promote the gender mix, and improve governance at all levels.