My so far only daughter-in-law comes from Kirgizia. She is a Muslim woman. Our second son’s girlfriend is from Gouda, the cheese town of the Netherlands. My older daughter’s boyfriend comes from Surinam. He is a Hindu. Our younger daughter’s boyfriend is from South Africa. If we have dinner as a family, there is plenty of diversity around the table.

The lingua franca at the table is English. The menu is a la carte, because it is impossible to all eat the same. By the way, I consider this one of the great advantages of the fact that our children have been raised in Curacao. To them, a family in which everyone is different but lives together without any distinction is quite normal.

Equality
But this is a too ideal picture of reality. People always seem to want to make an unfounded and unjustified distinction. Already in the sixties and seventies of the previous century, the United States therefore attempted in the context of the fight against discrimination to somewhat favor traditionally subordinated groups in selections, for instance for university, in order to thus create more equality. Currently, every large company in the United States has to have and propagate a diversity policy. One has to make sure that all the different groups in society can roughly be found among the staff.

What does this have to do with corporate governance? Diversity is also an issue in the boardroom. For the sake of convenience, I do not consider religion, color, race, and sexual preference for the moment. Let us just consider sex and age. Most supervisory boards consist of older men (such as I). Women are underrepresented in the boardroom, just like younger people. Is there a reason for this? From a historical perspective there certainly is. This underrepresentation is most certainly not justified. It is also disappearing. Women slowly but surely rise to the higher levels of the business community, in health care, and in the legal profession. In the Netherlands, more than fifty percent of the members of the judiciary is female. The same in the medical profession. This was inconceivable thirty years ago. At universities, these percentages are even much higher than 50%. Women are very well represented at the highest levels of politics in Curacao. I think it is only a matter of time until this effect also reaches the boardroom.

Rejuvenation
But how about age? Can someone who is 25 years old be a supervisory director? Legally he or she can. In general, there are no obstructions in the articles of incorporation either. Being of age, 18 years old or older, suffices. So why do you not see this twenty-five-year-old supervisory director? Why is it not promoted? Now it gets interesting.

A supervisory director should generally have some dominance over the management board, particularly on account of experience, but also on account of (special) knowledge, and yes, age. At any rate, it seems difficult if a supervisory board with an average age of 25 supervises a management board with an average age of 50. It is not impossible, it is not wrong either. But, well, what do you as a seasoned professional accept if a newly-graduated boy (still wet behind the ears) tells you to really take a different approach. Or has to assess you. Or has to determine the height of your salary. I am sure it does not always turn out well. Yet, it may be a good thing, not only old guys in the supervisory board. Also one or two people in their thirties can be refreshing. They can change the perspective. They are the future. So just do it, this diversity in the boardroom!

This column is also available in Papiamentu. Click here to download a pdf version.

Do you have a question about corporate governance yourself? Please e-mail it to governance@ekvandoorne.com and perhaps your question will be discussed in the next blogpost!

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