Andrea Mara

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Anglotapes: what would women do?

Listening to the Anglotapes for the second day today, like most of the country, I’m angry and speechless.
We all know the history of what happened, but to actually hear the conversations played out – to hear the lack of forethought, the complete absence of care, the clear intention to mislead, is shocking.
The Anglo directors made decisions which had knock-on impacts that destroyed lives in this country. And they joked about it.
Singing, swearing and laughing.
Yes, we know some of it is bravado, but that doesn’t lessen the impact. see story here
As I listened to “Deutschland Uber Alles” being sung by John Bowe, followed by sniggering from  David Drumm, while they discussed how to abuse the Irish bank guarantee, I couldn’t help wondering if the outcome would have been different if there were women in those positions.
And I don’t mean that women are “better” than men, but women and men do complement one another, in life and in business. Men are likely to be more open to taking risks, and less worried about upsetting other people.
Women tend to be more risk-averse, and work on nurturing relationships – they’re more likely to worry about outcomes and impacts on others (and of course there are many exceptions)
This is generalisation but a reasonably logical conclusion – we see it around us in everyday life, and it is backed up by research: The European Commission Women on boards factsheet (here) says that gender diversity on boards brings “Improved corporate governance and ethics: Studies have shown that the quality of corporate governance and ethical behavior is high in companies with a high share of women on boards”
The Credit Suisse report on gender diversity  concluded “Our research suggests that a specific consequence of greater board diversity for shareholders is one of reduced volatility – manifested as enhanced stability in corporate performance and in share price returns.”
A report by Ernst & Young called ” Groundbreakers : Using the strength of women to rebuild the world’s economy” asks whether “the economic and financial upheaval would have turned out differently if more diverse perspectives had been considered at key decision points” The report points out that while these are unanswerable questions, they are the right questions to ask, and suggests “The undeniable body of evidence in favor of women’s empowerment presents a powerful case for building more inclusive leadership”
We need risk-takers in business, and we need others who can reign in the risk-takers when necessary – a company run only by women wouldn’t necessarily be any better than one run only by men – like most things in life, a balance is the ideal.
Of all the directors in place at Anglo in 2006 there was just one woman. There were 18 men – the executive board with responsibility for day-to-day running of the bank was entirely male.
If anyone at Anglo had worried about impacts on others during this crucial time, would we be where we are today? Would a woman have stepped in and suggested that blatantly misleading the Central Bank was unethical and not likely to end well? Would a woman have thought ahead to the potential impacts on tax-payers, on families all around Ireland?
I don’t know, nobody knows.
But if women held the roles of David Drumm, John Bowe and Peter Fitzgerald, I don’t think we’d be listening to the arrogant bravado and school-boy sniggering heard on Anglotapes, while a bank and an economy teetered on the edge of disaster.




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