Five essential skills women bring to corporate boards

Securities and Exchange Commission filings say women on boards often supply skills that were missing. This is the finding of Daehyun Kim, assistant professor of accounting at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, who reached his conclusions after reviewing proxy statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that detailed the skills, qualifications and expertise of incoming directors.

According to his research, women board members were likely to bring a half-dozen skills important to decision making that weren't well-represented on their boards before their arrival: risk management, human resources, sustainability, politics or government, regulatory or compliance, and corporate governance. These skills are more likely to be possessed by female than male board members.

Dr. Kim doesn’t advocate for setting a quota or minimum proportion of women to serve on boards. He points out that looking at the listed skill sets in this way provides a new way to measure the impact of adding women to boards. “The quality of group decision-making is enhanced with diverse opinions,” he says. “Functionally diverse teams are more innovative, set clearer strategies, are more likely to react to competition, and are quicker to adapt to organizational changes.”