No wonder many seek out the benefits of being a NED through less formal routes – by mentoring directors, coaching or advising. “I try not to be a non-exec if I can help it,” says Hinder. “If nothing else, there are the liability issues. And if you’re part of a board, inevitably you get more drawn in. As an -adviser, it’s easier to be independent.”
Overall, then, is being a NED really worth it? “At every new company you go to, you learn a huge amount about the industry it operates in and the way it’s run,” says Tracey. “That’s really attractive for anyone interested in business.
You’re also there to pass on advice and guidance to a CFO – and it’s actually very satisfying to help them with that big picture stuff without having to work all hours to ensure it’s executed properly.
“Equally, it’s a really great feeling to have someone pick up the phone to you and chat about what’s on their plate,” he concludes. “If you’re a good, supportive NED, you can be both helpful and well-respected – and those are good things! It’s emotionally, as well as intellectually, nourishing."
Women in the boardroom
UK boards remain overwhelmingly male. According to a Department for Business, Innovation & Skills report released by Lord Davies of Abersoch in February, only 12.5 percent of FTSE 100 directors are women.
The inherent sexism of the imbalance is a problem, he says, and although he did not demand a quota he has made it clear that chairmen need to act.
Lord Davies has set a voluntary target of 25 percent of women in the boardroom by 2015. But if companies fail to meet this target, legislation may be used to force the issue. The good news is that women make up ?15 percent of NEDs in the FTSE 100 (compared to just 5.5 percent of execs).
Lord Davies also highlights the poor pipeline of women as a potential problem. Since NEDs, by definition, need plenty of experience, competition for the best women to serve as non-execs is likely to get even fiercer.
“Evidence suggests that gender-diverse boards have a positive impact on performance,” says his report. “Boards make better decisions where a range of voices can be heard.
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