Corporate Governance

23 Aug 2011 23:06 | admin newsletter (Administrator)

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Corporate governance: the “KMO Adviesraad“ project
An interview of Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business by Alessandra Zocca

Ms.Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business, - was interviewed by Alessandra Zocca (PWI).

Ms.Danielle Binnemans, Managing Partner at Experts@Business, an independent resourcing specialist within Interim Management and Business Coaching, lead partner of the UNIZO corporate governance project KMO Adviesraad.

PWI - What is the UNIZO “KMO Adviesraad” corporate governance project and what is your role within?

Ms. Binnemans – UNIZO turned to my company - Experts@Business - for support in their new corporate governance project (called KMO Adviesraad) addressed to small/medium enterprises (SMEs not quoted in the Stock Exchange).
UNIZO is the largest Flemish organisation for self-employed SMEs entrepreneurs, with over 82,000 members as well as 423 local branches (one in every municipality) mostly located in the northern and Dutch-speaking part of Belgium (region of Flanders and Brussels).This project is sponsored by Baron Buysse, the main author of the Belgian Code for Corporate Governance (Code Buysse) and the Flemish government.
There is a similar project for companies quoted in the Stock Exchange, run by the VOKA organization, the Flanders' Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The aim of the UNIZO corporate governance project for SME’s is to link experts to small/medium businesses in order to help them grow, reinforce their governance structure and ultimately their business and financial performance. The SMEs participating in this project engage for at least 2 years in establishing 4 annual board meetings with the assistance of 3 independent board members – in the role of advisory board - supporting the owner or the management team with their expertise.
The Flemish government sustains these companies also by reimbursing half of the independent advisors’ honorary payment.

What is the impact of this UNIZO initiative in Belgium?

Ms. Binnemans – About 80% of the Belgian economic landscape is composed of small and medium sized enterprises, therefore the potential benefits coming out this UNIZO initiative will be key for the strategic growth of those SMEs who are participating, and the preparation of their potential future quotation in the Stock Exchange.

What was the role of Experts@Business in this project, Danielle?

Ms. Binnemans - With our company we have been in charge, since last March, of the following:
•    Screening the candidates to the advisor role (1250 candidates!)
•    Building a platform to facilitate the following matching process (advisors/SME) according to the competency needs of the SMEs
•    Finally of matching SME’s and advisors.

Two months ago the campaign started in each of the Flemish provinces to inform the SMEs about this project, so companies could apply to UNIZO, who visited them and transmitted to Experts@Business the relevant competency needs: this assured that we could optimally match these companies with the advisors who are expert in the areas where the companies are lacking expertise. After the approval by the company for the proposed independent advisors, the new board meetings can start under the overall supervision of the relevant UNIZO coordinator.

How was the take-up of the UNIZO offer to become an independent board member and advisor for Belgian SMEs?

Ms. Binnemans – The response to the UNIZO offer was good, as mentioned, 1250 candidates. What surprised me, Alessandra, is that the women who applied were only 15% of the candidates. The selection criteria were professional competencies and capabilities, becoming board advisors was a tremendous opportunity to improve and develop corporate governance skills and expertise.

Agreed, a missed opportunity for women. Are there few women in the profession of interim executive?

Ms. Binnemans – Yes, there are fewer women in the interim executive field, but if women chose this profession, they are the best.
Women generally prefer more stable work, even if it is at a level lower than their capabilities and aspirations. Let me make an example: give a job description to both a man and a woman, guess what will be their reaction … The man will focus on the 90% of the skills he already has and will believe he will learn the lacking 10%. The woman will forget that she has solid competencies in the 90% of the job requirements and she will highlight the 10% she lacks.
Women are often reticent to promote themselves. Women tend to be unsure, they lack self-confidence and are too humble, even in the functions where they are the majority. For example HR is a function/expertise area chosen by many women, because this domain requires “feeling” and women have an inclination for it, but unfortunately the top level positions are still filled with men.

What else, in your opinion, prevents professional women from reaching the top positions?  What could help?

Ms. Binnemans – A lot of women do not want the top, they make themselves content with middle management jobs, and if they reach the executive level, they do not strive to go higher, because they fear they will be no longer able to cope with their family. But - on the contrary - the fact that women are earning more money allows to acquire external help at home. We lose a lot of women in companies at this specific point.
This is sad, because at the university there are clear statistics that shows girls are cleverer, they get better grades than boys, but they risk becoming frustrated during their working life.

My strong recommendation is that successful women – who made a brilliant career – take the time to talk to these female students and prove to them that it’s possible to combine family and career. Girls have many, many questions and doubts about their professional future; I am sure that young women wonder when it is better to have their children, I can tell them my experience and advice “the sooner the better” in order to avoid taking a break in the middle of their way up. 
A “mentoring program” for female students is essential, also  a survey about their issues regarding their future career. Indeed, when I ask successful women what helped them in their career, nine out ten of them state they had a good mentor, who believed in them and encouraged them to take challenges.
Marcia De Wachter (Director of the National Bank of Belgium), Ingrid Lieten (Vice-Minister-President of the Flemish Government), Astrid De Lathauwer (Executive Vice President Human Resources of the Belgacom Group) and Saskia Van Uffelen (CEO Bull Belux), like other top women I know, already provide help to less senior women and, I think this is the way forward.

Do you think that women’s promotion is too much controlled due to the male dominance in the screening/promotion committees?

Ms. Binnemans – No, I do not think so, if women want to get to the top and they are competent and confident, they can achieve it. Sure, it’s a man’s world, we cannot force things, but it’s coming, it is just a matter of time, look at how many more women ministers we have nowadays!

In your opinion, what are the drivers that inspire women to climb the hierarchy?

Ms. Binnemans – Passion is the number one! Being passionate in their job, striving to grow and develop: these are necessary qualities to succeed. As a woman you need to be as good as your male colleagues, if not even better. I do not think that women fight for the prestige of being on the top, in my opinion, prestige is a consequence of impeccable competencies.

Do you think that women would need gender specific “leadership program” to support their career to the board?

Ms. Binnemans – No, no difference in training between women and men. And in Belgium they have the same education and training opportunities.

Which is your reaction to “pink quotae”?

Ms. Binnemans – I am really not in for quotas. Women want to succeed for their merit, they hate the label “quotas board member”! 
On the other side, it might be a faster way … but, in order to respect the law, the potential risk will be to take on board women not fully competent or with not enough experience, which will turn quotas into a negative measure in the long run.

What I would suggest, though, is the following: if in a recruitment or a promotion process it turns out that the two  best candidates are a man and a woman, and the % of women in the company is lower, then the woman should be chosen. This principle of the best candidate is respected and, at the same time, is brought in more gender balance.

 Short Biography
Danielle Binnemans is, Managing Partner and founder (in 2009) of  Experts@Business, an independent resourcing specialist within Interim Management and Business Coaching offering Expertise and Experience in a wide range of sectors and specialisms for long term and short term assignments through a smart network of Partners and Executives with strong track records.Danielle Binnemans is  lead partner of the UNIZO corporate governance project KMO Adviesraad.
In her career Danielle has fulfilled Senior Management Positions in different sectors.  Managing Partner at PMAadvice bvba, provider of Executive Interim Management from 2005 - 2009. Administrator/ Managing Partner at Antilope Group nv, a Printing industrie from 1986 to 1998.. Sales Manager at  Amersham International ltd., a pharmaceutical company from 1986 - 1984. Sales Manager at Etap nv from 1984 - 1982.
Danielle granted a Master in Applied Economics at UFSIA (Universitaire Faculteiten Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen) and a Master in Economics at the Antwerp University.
Pegasuslaan 5
1831 Diegem
M: +32 (0)477 35 64 64

Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of expertsatbusiness, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement. 

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