Back in 2010, I was in Paris with a colleague running a workshop at the Women’s International Networking global conference. We had 100 persons show up for our workshop and my male colleague turned to me and said, wow I feel a bit self-conscious being one of only 3 men in this room. And I replied, well that’s how many women feel every day.

Today I still find it to be the case, that when working with European companies at a senior and board level, I find often I am one of the only, if not the only woman in the room. This is of course changing and there are many positive benefits to be gained with increased gender diversity on boards. Numerous studies have shown a, “positive correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and performance.” Gender diversity in boards is one of the ways for bringing in different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences to improve the quality of decision making.

From my own experience, I do notice a difference while working with one of our clients in Bangkok, where 50% of the board and senior leadership are women. And this is not unique to this client; in Thailand, there are more women in senior leadership positions (37%) than globally (24%). And in some sectors, like the financial industry, there are more women than men (57%) and a very high proportion of women in the seats of boards and executive committees (31%). The President of the stock exchange is a woman and between 2006 and 2010, a female governor led the central bank.

Drivers of gender diversity in Thailand

Anecdotally I’ve learned about several factors that people perceive driving the high number of female leaders:

Going beyond structural and individual solutions

Most of what I’ve read, watched and experienced in Western countries to stimulate more women to aspire to and end up in leadership positions is focused on structural solutions like setting quotas for women (as in Norway) or individual solutions such as telling women to take responsibility themselves and develop confidence to have a seat at the table (like the Lean In movement). However, the learnings from my Thai experience point to additional questions we should ask ourselves that can enable the organisational conditions and climate for more women in leadership roles:

Ultimately having more gender diversity in boards can stimulate better decision making and contribute to improved organisational performance. Beyond the structural and individual solutions (setting quotas and encouraging women’s self-confidence), the learnings from Thailand show there are also behavioural, habitual and cultural solutions where there is more we can do to create the conditions and climate for more women to not only develop the ambition to take on leadership roles, but to end up in them.

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