Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair of 30 Percent Club was in Turkey on March 30, 2018. In 2015, Brenda took over from Helena Morrissey as Global Chair of the 30% Club. Brenda has experience in the capital markets, banking and in financial institutions as well as the Boards she has been serving.
Among many other many important interventions Brenda explained a very similar experience that I have gone through. When you are the only person in the Board, it is difficult. Even when you are two women on the Board, still nothing is solved. The other members can’t even remember who had said what, but they recall that “one of the women members said so and so” kind of attitude. Why can’t men differentiate between the two women who are sitting on the Board, when women don’t – or can’t – confuse 7 men sitting in the Board? I could never understand this. So, 30% was set the first goal as a Board membership threshold for women to make a material changes in the result, but “it not the end of the game” said Brenda Trenowden.
This “I can’t recall who said this? or “She is here, but shall she survive?” attitude reminds me of President Drew Faust, when they called her the women President of Harvard, “I’m not the woman president of Harvard. I’m the president of Harvard,” said President Faust around 2007, more than 10 years ago. Drawing the attention to this issue is important, because the fog in all the eyes are not yet all cleared. If there is no man president at the same time, then there is no need for a gender description. It is as simple as this.
Brenda’s description fits into my realities very much. In one count I have calculated that I have 100 years of experience in various Boards. This does not relate to my age, of course. I was lucky and I had served more than one or even two or three Boards simultaneously. That is, I was only in the right place, at the right time to be elected to the Boards. Brenda mentioned a PWC study which asserts that when there is success women tend to say we, whereas men use the word I, when they are narrating the success. When it is a failure, on the other hand, women tend to say I and men we.
The 30% Club meeting of Turkey was held in the Ruffles Hotel. Zorlu Holding was hosting this very elegant gathering. There were quite a number very smart, powerful and elegant women and men. If I try to cite them, I am sure I will forget one or two that should not be forgotten. So, I will save this trouble for everybody.
The meeting was opened by the speech of President of 30% Club Ahmet Döndüncü. Ahmet serves as the President of 30% Club in Turkey and he has become the role model for “he for she champion” in women circles since he had said “why can’t you trust your company to women, when you can trust your children to women?” A very well-liked phrase and a very well-articulated question.
Ahmet Döndüncü explained the need for BIST 295 companies to be more gender balanced and that the goal is 30% women for board member and upper management. A gender balance representation in BIST 295 is expected to help the financial, social and environmental results, as well as sustainability. Lately, we quite frequently see companies vanishing in the economy, a serious contradiction to sustainability.
Prof. Dr. Melsa Ararat who is a scholar and the director of Corporate Governance Forum at Sabancı University as well as the leader in establishing 30% Club in Turkey and the Chair of the steering committee of 30% Club in Turkey as well as Independent Women Directors (IWD) platform, among other responsibilities. Melsa explained that 11,5% of the publicly owned companies in Turkey in 2012 had women board directors. It had increased to 14,2% in 2016 and slightly dropped to 13,9 % in 2017, both much lower than the objective of %30, that had been already attained in UK. Whereas, at S&P 500 companies about 20 % of board seats are held by women.
Brenda Trenowden very honestly put forward “We were lucky in the UK. The government was looking into ways to make UK companies more competitive and gender was put forward as a solution. The 30% Club movement in UK had serious government support.”
Brenda has an article titled “Gender Diversity Isn’t Just an Equality Issue, It Can Really Payoff” published in 2016.
Catalyst claimed that the higher the representation of women in boards when compared with the sample with fewer women, companies had 66% higher return on investment in their study of the Fortune 500 companies. This was a study of upper and lower quartiles and the mere fact on women exist on the board can’t guarantee higher return on investment but a matter of all things that are taken simultaneously and seriously result in better return for companies.
30 % Club started with 16 founding members in Turkey. Apart from Ahmet Dördüncü from Akkök, Ağah Uğur from Borusan, Ali Fuat Erbil from Garanti Bank, Cem Boyner from Boyner Holding, Ebru Özdemir from Limak Yatırım, Erdal Karamercan from Eczacıbaşı Holding, Galya Molinas from Coca Cola Company, Faik Açıkalın from Yapı Kredi Bank, Hakan Binbaşgil from Akbank, Humphrey Hutton from Deloitte, Murat Özyeğin from Fiba Holding, Ömer Yüngül from Zorlu Holding, Sani Şener from TAV Holding, Zeynep Bodur from Kale Group, Serra Akçaoğlu from Citibank and Hurşit Zorlu from Anadolu Group form the first list of founding members of 30% Club in Turkey. The figure membership shall soon reach 40 individuals said Melsa. Those companies that wish to do better and wish to be member need to hurry up to be a member as soon as possible.
There were two separate pieces of bad news. First is within BIST 100, there are 32 companies where no women on the board exits. Second piece of bad news is that again among BIST 100 companies there are only 3 women CEO’s and the other 97 companies have male CEO’s. During the time I worked in ABB, Turkey was the second highest after Finland in the world with around 12% women CEO’s. Today’s 3 women CEO’s and their companies need to be recognized: Arzu Aslan Kesimer from TAT, Damla Birol from Tuborg and Jaklin Güner from Vakko.
Sani Şener of TAV Holding declared that he is proud to be part of the 30% Club initiation and they already have 3 women Board members starting from this year.
Bekir Ağırdır had good news. He reminded us that we have already entered the information era and women have a greater competitive advantage in information era, rather than the physical strength that was required at earlier times. The actual change in our era need to happen with the intellectual change and women will benefit with this intellectual change that requires female energy to identify emotional intelligence dimension required for customer behaviour as well as issues like environment and sustainability.