Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA May-Jun 2013 Contents The importance of diversity
in board membership is well
acknowledged. Releasing a
policy paper on the subject in
February this year, CEO of the
Australian Institute of Company Directors
(AICD), John Colvin, said if all individual
directors on a board view issues in a
similar way, there is a risk that the board
will approach issues too narrowly, suffer
from 'group think', or fail to adequately
consider and evaluate alternative ideas or
options in relation to the organisation.
"Boards that are composed of directors
with different perspectives, experience,
backgrounds and views in relation to
issues affecting the organisation, may
contribute to better problem solving and
decision-making, foster greater
innovation, and enhance
board effectiveness and
performance," said Colvin.
While the concept of
board diversity theoretically
encompasses gender, ethnicity
and race, nationality, religious
beliefs, cultural or socio-
economic background, and
age, the loudest discussions
about board diversity typically
focus on gender representation.
Specifically, about getting more
women around the board table.
Interestingly, according to the
AICD's ASX 200 Snapshot Report
2012, increasing the number of women
on boards has the spin off effect of
increasing age diversity -- at least a tiny
bit. Women directors, which currently
compromise 15.4 per cent of board roles
on the ASX 200, up from 8.3 per cent
three years ago, are generally younger
than their male counterparts - aged
between 50-59 years, whereas men are
aged between 60-69 years.
But achieving age diversity on boards
is arguably more controversial than
the other forms of diversity because
governance is usually seen to require a
level of skills, knowledge and experience --
particularly in matters concerning risk and
financial exposure -- that are unavailable
to anyone without a certain number of
years under their professional belt.
A DIFFERENT VIEW
But not everyone agrees. Dr Nicky Howe,
chief executive of Southcare in Western
Australia and adjunct professor in the
School of Business at The University of
Notre Dame, says she is 'gently countering
that stereotypical view'.
"Board effectiveness is not just about
skills and knowledge," says Howe. "A big
part is about board behaviours. A lot of
boards are not effective because of poor
board behaviours like group think; and
they are not welcoming of new people.
"The culture of a board can be a
real problem. If there is no process of
welcoming and providing introductions
and orientations and actively developing
new people, then that's poor board
behaviour," she says.
Howe says skills are only
one part of the package a board
member can offer. She says that
engaging young people on a
board can deliver an injection of
fresh perspectives and challenge
some of the negative values and
behaviours that can develop.
Younger people on boards
and board committees can
also help an organisation
develop strategies to attract
other younger people into the
organisation; and to retain them.
"To think it's just about skills is wrong,"
ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM
Howe is part of a group of WA aged
services providers that have teamed
up with 29 year old Alicia Curtis, a
young social entrepreneur, to launch an
innovative new initiative designed to bring
more younger people into leadership
roles, including board positions, in the
aged services sector.
An award winning consultant, author,
mentor and speaker specialising in
youth leadership, Curtis is working in
collaboration with Southcare, MercyCare
and Baptistcare to lead the free program.
The Young Leaders in Aged Care
project aims to see more young
leaders aged 18 - 35 on the boards and
committees of aged care organisations
and it has attracted mostly strong support,
including from Aged and Community
Services WA (ACSWA).
The two main elements are a four
month leadership program designed to
get a number of young professionals and
entrepreneurs board-ready for an aged
care organisation; and a series of six
open, cross-industry half day workshops
called 'unconventions' which address
key topics and questions for employees,
employers and boards.
All the information and resources
developed through the leadership program
and the series of unconventions will feed
into a third element of the program - an
online toolkit, including edited videos of
the unconventions, which will be freely
available to interested organisations all
Alicia Curtis has been developing and
implementing youth leadership programs
for a wide range of different sectors and
special interest groups for over ten years.
"I met Dr Nicky Howe in 2011 at a
networking event following the release of
the latest version of my emerging leaders
report, about what keeps younger people
"She talked about the difficulty in
engaging and retaining younger carers.
We talked about leadership roles in the
sector -- how many young people were in
leadership roles at an organisation level
and also a board level," says Curtis.
The two agreed to meet for a coffee
and 'have a conversation' and the project
grew from there.
"We put in a project proposal for a
social innovation grant from the state
government. The idea was to engage
young leaders in governance in aged
care as a way of getting some diversity of
perspectives and some new insights right
at the top and getting that effect trickling
down," Curtis says.
Howe says the first unconvention, held
in Perth at the end of February, was
interesting because it brought together a
Boards and management
A group of committed aged services CEOs in the West are
supporting a youth leadership program designed to help encourage
greater board diversity in the sector, writes Keryn Curtis.
26 | MAY--JUNE2013 | AAA
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