“How gender equality on the board directly benefits my organisation”

Having a good balance of men and women at the top level of her company has brought myriad business advantages, explains Anna McCarron

Asendia UK is proud to have achieved gender parity on its board of directors. In fact, five men and six women run the business today. We’re a large international mail and parcel specialist, employing a total of 450 people across our mail and parcel processing and distribution centre at Heathrow, and e-commerce fulfilment centres in Southampton and Bedford. 

The strong representation of women on our board has been achieved thanks to the inclusive and progressive culture of the business – which is European-owned – but also because we operate in the global logistics sector which has successfully embraced diversity at management and executive levels in recent years. By its very practical nature, logistics is arguably more down to earth than, say, law or banking, and open to employing many different types of people. Certainly, across Asendia, we celebrate the differences in people, and value is given to the strengths of every character.

So, is the board’s gender balance benefitting the business? Yes, without doubt. Here are the five ways gender diversity at the top is paying off at Asendia UK: 

Offering different perspectives

A multiplicity of perspectives unleashes creativity and innovation, and helps organisations spot and seize new opportunities. It can also encourage organisations to challenge gender stereotypes. In part due to women rising in our ranks and driving change from within, we launched a mentoring scheme several years ago, to help other senior managers (men and women) in several commercial teams overcome hurdles to achieve their own success. Many of our mentees have achieved promotions, and one has even secured a well-deserved board appointment at Asendia UK where her input adds incredible value to the business.

Boosting group collaboration

Having women on an executive (or any professional) team can help improve team processes and boost group collaboration. Inclusive teams make better, faster business decisions up to 87 per cent of the time, according to research by Cloverpop, and at Asendia UK we’ve been able to drive change faster thanks to a gender-diverse board. Our overarching leadership style has certainly been shaped by the make-up of the board, underpinning our commitment to working towards greater respect, diversity and equality at work. When it comes to adopting policies that support a better family life balance, inclusive decision-making has been invaluable. 

Better reflecting customers

Several studies report that women directors deal more effectively with risk and better address concerns of customers, employees, stakeholders and operating communities. I strongly agree and I’ve seen this in action at Asendia UK. The more the make-up of your organisation reflects the end customer, the more likely it is you’ll understand and communicate effectively with them. The business simply becomes more relevant if the management team has a diversity of genders, as well as backgrounds and ethnicities. Women are hugely influential when it comes to making purchasing decisions, so in the e-commerce sector (which is our bread and butter), their view of fulfilment services is increasingly powerful – and vitally important to us as a business. For us, having a female Director of Innovation and Development has contributed greatly to the customer-centric nature of services we’re developing.

Improving recruitment, retention and reputation

Having an inclusive workplace is a powerful recruiting tool. Female millennials look for employers with a strong record on diversity, according to research by PwC, with 85 per cent saying it’s important to them. At Asendia UK we’ve found that having a reputation as an inclusive employer is essential for us to demonstrate positive company values. It’s enhanced our status in a highly competitive recruitment marketplace. 

Progressive diversity and inclusion policies are increasingly important today because they actually do deliver positive effects. According to researchers at Aalto University, firms with LGBT-friendly policies are associated with “greater employee commitment, improved job satisfaction, increased productivity, and more altruistic workplace behaviour”, for instance.

Driving up profitability

Research shows that gender diversity has a positive impact on the bottom line, and that’s certainly been the case for us. According to McKinsey, the most gender-diverse companies are 21 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability, while a report by MSCI shows that having women on the board of a company boosts productivity. And as the UN Global Compact Academy puts it: “The inclusion of women's perspectives, skills, talents and innovations supports both financial and non-financial performance.”

Is lasting change afoot?

In Europe, legislation mandates the percentage of women directors, and this is changing the face of European boardrooms. In the UK, the news this February that women now hold a third of board positions in the UK’s top public companies was broadly welcomed. But while UK boardrooms are becoming more diverse without the need for legislation and fines, there is still a lot more to be achieved. 

Let’s not lose any time. I’ve seen first hand how having women on the board can hasten pay equality, broaden opportunities for women, improve corporate culture and significantly boost corporate outcomes. If we can break down the barriers that women face accessing leadership roles and board seats, so much the better. 

Anna McCarron is HR director at Asendia UK