Report shows women bring much-needed emotional intelligence to the boardroom

Women are bringing a much needed source of emotional intelligence to the top table and as a result improving a board’s ability to innovate, make consensual decisions and connect with customers and staff. This is according to a survey by Inspire, the business network for senior board level women supported by Harvey Nash. The survey, completed by 326 board-level executives across 19 countries and part of Inspire’s Return on Diversity report, revealed that almost two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) believe women are bringing a greater level of emotional intelligence (EI) to the board which in turn brings greater cultural understanding (91 percent believe better EI boosted the board’s ability in this area), better board consensus (80 percent) and greater creativity and innovation (75 percent).

In addition the survey revealed that 92 percent believe that women bring new and different perspectives to the board, with participants’ comments ranging from how women took a different approach to risk through to how they offer greater pragmatism in decision making.

But whilst most people agreed greater emotional intelligence at board level had a positive impact on the ’soft’ attributes of the board, there was much less consensus about how this affected other attributes. For instance most (60 percent) respondents believe having greater board EI had either no affect or — in the case of one in eight — a negative affect, on its ability to make bold decisions. This was even more pronounced when looking at speed of decision making where 68 percent believe EI had no positive effect, 13 percent of which felt it was negative.

Carol Rosati, co-founder of Inspire and director of Harvey Nash, said: “At a time when companies are desperately seeking new ways to create revenue streams through innovation and entering new markets, the need for creative thinking and cultural understanding of customers and staff has never been greater. This survey shows that companies bringing on women onto boards can be one way they achieve great board emotional intelligence, and in turn better board effectiveness. But whilst the survey shows greater board EI is an overwhelmingly positive thing, it also shows that it can make boards operate differently. Boards must recognize that becoming diverse is more than just a change in their make up; it can often create a change in their approach altogether.”

The survey also looked at how to achieve greater female board membership. Respondents overwhelmingly rejected the idea of government quotas (only 6 percent support this option) preferring the emphasis to be on companies to cultivate and develop their own female talent pipeline (48 percent). A further 29 percent of respondents believe the main barrier to female progression was attitudes amongst C-level male executives.

Source: Harvey Nash; www.harveynash.com.