Corporate Boards See Gap Between Expectations and Reality

The majority are still looking for guidance on how to use open data.
Sixty percent of board directors say there is a gap between the expectations placed on boards and the reality of the board’s ability to oversee a company, according to the 2016 Global Board of Directors Survey. The survey was released by Boris Groysberg and Yo-Jud Cheng of Harvard Business School, executive search firm Spencer Stuart, the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation, and researcher Deborah Bell. The survey captured responses from more than 4,000 directors in 60 countries.

Perhaps to partly fill that gap, boards are seeking out new skills as they appoint new board members. Two of the top three skills that respondents consider most important for board service today are industry knowledge and financial/audit skills. Respondents say they also look for expertise in risk management and globalization.

But boards might be overlooking other key needs, the researchers note: While 67 percent of respondents cite strategy as one of the most important areas of expertise for directors today, only 33 percent feel that their boards are looking for strategy expertise with their recent appointments.

Researchers uncovered other key findings. For instance, while networking is a priority for both men and women directors, women spend slightly more time on the activity (10.1 hours versus 9.1 hours for men, on average). The researchers additionally found that directors believe diversity should be driven by board leaders who become champions, not by quotas or shareholder demands.

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