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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Having women on boards is good for women, the economy and society

Written by Staff Writer

April 11, 2023

By Beverley Hancock, Head of Guide and Appoint Practices and Partner at Sirdar 

It is no secret that women are underrepresented on boards throughout Africa – and the world in fact.  Sirdar’s director survey has proved this and this lack of female board members in Africa is evident immediately when considering that only 22% of the 233 viable survey responses were completed by female non-executive directors. It was economist Noreena Hertz who said: “Having women on boards is good for women, good for the economy and good for society. A win-win-win outcome: how rare.”

Let us look at overcoming underrepresentation in the context of Hertz’s potential three wins.

 Having women on boards is good for women

This is quite self-explanatory. If women are elevated in terms of position, they have more scope to make an impact whether in the boardroom or in business in general. This increases their learning, capability and ultimately their confidence. The by-product of this is that other women are inspired to do the same.

Consider the likes of power women such as Catherine Cleary who was the first woman to serve on the boards of both General Motors and AT&T in 1972, or more recently, Hideko Kunii who was the first woman appointed to the board of Honda Motor in 2014. Both of them were passionate about levelling the playing field for women and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

The survey found that only 23% of board members in Africa are female, leaving much room for improvement – and much opportunity.

 Having women on boards is good for the economy

While this might not be obvious, the survey by Sirdar found that in boards with female directors, 75% reported that the company’s Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation (EBITDA) increased or remained the same compared to the previous year, with 25% reporting a decrease. In boards composed of only males, this decrease in EBITDA was true for 34% of businesses.

Furthermore, 70% believed that their board’s impact on the company was effective (56% of those that considered their boards effective noted that they felt their boards were, in fact, “highly” effective), while 66% of boards with no female members were considered effective (with only 40% of these being considered “highly” effective).

In boards with at least one female director, there was a significantly larger report of an increase in EBITDA (of more than 10%), when compared to boards composed only of males (66% compared to 60%). 

Boards composed only of males were significantly less likely to feel that the board composition had the appropriate knowledge and experience to govern the company (80% agreement) when compared to boards with at least one female director (95% agreement).


This 17th edition of the Top Women Publication is celebrating the success of women across various industries. Read it here: 


Having women on boards is good for society

Now recognising the impact that women can make on bottom-line figures, let us take that a step further.

Increased bottom-line figures indicate growth, which is a clear path to more employment opportunities. Not only does this further boost business productivity – but those who are appointed are able to support their families and communities in turn.

The business also has more discretionary spending available to uplift the communities in which it operates or further afield, whether through education, health or environmental initiatives. Ultimately, society gains and the cycle continues: growth equals meaningful economic impact.

Where to next?

Next time you have an empty seat around the boardroom table, avoid discounting women who could serve your board and business with excellence. Also avoid stereotyping and thinking that women are not suited to your industry – after all, Cleary and Kunii were both appointed to boards in the vehicle industry which was traditionally male territory. Having a female board member might bring just the perspective that your board needs.


Sirdar is Africa’s leading guide, appointer and educator of high-performance boards. Their promise is meaningful economic impact. Sirdar believes that effective boards grow companies, helping them to become more sustainable with less risk and better returns. Services offered include education, board appointments, diagnostics and evaluations. Sirdar works throughout Africa, the Middle East.


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