More broadly, she wanted to increase the number of women on corporate boards who she said are role models other women can aspire to emulate. “I founded The Boardroom to fight ‘onlyness’,” said Markaki-Bartholdi, in reference to the slim minority of female non-executive directors.
Plugging the leaky leadership pipeline
Moreover, Markaki-Bartholdi underlined the “tremendous importance” of retaining the women being recruited into various positions, who the panel said are leaking out of the leadership pipeline. “We’re losing a lot of senior women. So, what are we doing to retain that senior talent that has made it to the top, against all odds, overcoming barriers and stereotypes and biases?” she asked.
Echoing her, Datuk Nora Abdul Manaf, Group Chief Human Capital Officer at Malaysian bank Maybank, said leaders of organizations needed to take personal responsibility to manage that pipeline of women candidates including through mentorship. “We have our own circle of influence and all of us have to take ownership for curating that infrastructure that will provide equitability,” she said.
Overcoming our own biases
In a similar vein, Cordula Jourdan, Head of Global Field Quality and Excellence at Switzerland’s Schindler industrial group, underscored how even senior female leaders needed to receive training to help them not just to support their colleagues, but to self-reflect. Following such training, she said, “I learned that I got a bit blind to the challenges we are still facing to bring women in to technical and operational leadership positions.”
This was because of misconceptions such as, “She doesn’t have the experience,” “She doesn’t have the deep technical knowledge,” or “She will get pregnant, stay at home, and the investment will not pay off,” emphasized Jourdan, who added: “I can only say if my previous managers had followed these stereotypes, I would not be here today.”