The the Belgian Corporate Governance Code adopted in early 2009 included inter alia the recommendations that boards of directors reflect gender diversity as standard practice.
“The Board’s composition should ensure that decisions are made in the corporate interest. It should be determined on the basis of gender diversity and diversity in general, as well as complementary skills, experience and knowledge.” (Provision 2.1 of the Code’s second principle)
Belgian companies willing to implement this recommendation were soon confronted with the challenge of identifying women candidates able and willing to take up board positions.
A group of women sharing the vision of increasing female board representation in Belgian private and public enterprises decided to create a “pool” of women with skills and experience beneficial to many boards. This was the birth of ‘Women on Board’.
By the end of 2009, the association had gained the financial support of the Belgian Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEFH/IGVM) for its official launch, together with the endorsement of the NVR (Nederlandstalige Vrouwenraad) and the CFFB (Conseil des Femmes Francophones de Belgique). The Association could also count on the administrative support of private enterprises linked to its five founding members. The Association received financial support from its sponsors and an additional support from public authorities.
Having created a pool of some 40 skilled women in 2010, the Association started providing private and public enterprises with access to the pool. Over the following years, the pool has grown and now (December 2018) has almost 300 members. Our objective of convincing enterprises to make the change happen and promoting and facilitating greater female board representation is progressively materialising, as witnessed by the fact that more and more companies are contacting Women on Board and appointing female board members. Meanwhile the talent pool continues to grow.
In June 2013, Women on Board co-initiated the creation of the European Women on Boards network, linking up “best of class” associations sharing the same goals and values throughout Europe.