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The Right Honourable Virginia Bottomley shares boardroom insights

27 Sep 2012

London Business School and Odgers Berndtson host thought-provoking business forum with global decision makers

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 High performing organisations must appoint diverse boards that bring a global perspective to the table, according to The Right Honourable Baroness Virginia Bottomley, who spoke in Dubai as part of a business leaders forum hosted by London Business School and international executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

The business luncheon was part of an ongoing series of forums hosted by London Business School, which offers the Executive MBA (Dubai) programme, to provide thought leadership and debate highlighting topics affecting the business world. The School partnered with Odgers Berndtson to discuss the latest trends in the boardroom and the growing influence of women in business.

Baroness Bottomley, who was a member of the British Parliament for over 10 years working with Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said boards appointing teams with a broad range of perspectives would achieve enhanced business results against the backdrop of globalisation.

The former Secretary of State for Health and National Heritage (now the department for Culture, Media and Sport) added that diversity was not simply the promotion of women to the boardroom, and boards with a wide range of functional backgrounds, ages and cultural experiences would see superior financial performance.

“If you only live in your own paradigm you have no idea what is happening on the outside,” said Baroness Bottomley, who chairs the Odgers Berndtson Global Board Practice, which searches for high level executives for plcs and private companies internationally. “The world is moving so fast and the competition is moving just as fast. You need to open the door, have fresh ideas and boards should consider individuals with experience in international markets and different environments.”

Speaking on the topic of ‘Diversity and Excellence in the boardroom’, Baroness Bottomley highlighted how the promotion of women to corporate boardrooms has been an enhanced area of focus for governments, the media and companies around the world.

“The number of female board appointments has improved in recent years and this can only be a good thing,” she said. “Women bring distinct personality and motivational strengths to the boardroom and have often worked incredibly hard to get to the position they are in.
“But diversity is not solely a gender issue. It’s about international perspectives. This aspect of globalisation is so critical and increasingly more successful businesses have people from all around the world.”

Baroness Bottomley also discussed that creating a diverse, inclusive and distinctly talented board requires the leadership of a strong chair.

“Recent developments have seen companies moving away from appointing their CEO to the role of Chairman,” she said. “They can often spend too much time protecting their own legacy and own decisions. There are always exceptions, and we’ve seen the financial sector CEOs moving on and being successful Chairmen, but we are experiencing a shift in this old style of thinking.”

The discussion also covered what women bring to the board, corporate governance, the role of independent directors and how they can add value to family businesses, the evolving role of the senior independent Director and the role of Advisory Boards.

Daniela Sfeir, Regional Head of Corporate Relations, Career Services at London Business School’s Dubai Centre, said:

“Baroness Bottomley’s talk was a fascinating insight into best practice and the latest developments and trends affecting boardrooms right around the world. She also had practical advice that our guests could take away and implement. Having high profile speakers like Baroness Bottomley adds to our objective of being a thought leader in the region and we were honoured that she was in Dubai to share her expertise and vast knowledge with local business leaders.”

Attending the business luncheon were high level representatives from local and international companies, including Standard Chartered Bank Plc, JP Morgan, Zurich Life, Majid Al-Futtaim Group, Al Rostamani Group and Dubai Holding.