Mandarin for Business: What impact do women have on company operations?

Mandarin for Business What impact do women have on company operations

Mandarin for Business: What impact do women have on company operations?

There’s a remarkable lack of women in corporate boardrooms around the world. The European Union is considering a remedy that would require that 40 percent of a company’s directors be women. This may be a milestone for gender equality, but the question is, will it make any difference in how companies are run?

世界范围内的公司董事会中,女性身影的缺失都值得关注。欧盟正考虑进行补救,要求公司董事会成员中女性的比例达到40%。这也许是性别平等的里程碑,但问题是,这会对公司运营方式产生任何影响吗?

The number of women directors remains stubbornly low. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization devoted to furthering women in business, American companies have the fourth-highest average of women directors in the world. The average board of a Fortune 500 company in the United States is 16 percent women.

女性董事的数量一直很低。根据致力于促进企业中女性成长的非营利机构Catalyst的计算,美国公司的女性董事平均数为世界第四高。《财富》美国500强企业董事会中的女性比例平均值为16%。

Among other Western countries, Catalyst finds that Britain is at 15 percent, Germany is at 11.2 percent, and Japan is near the bottom at less than 1 percent. [China is in the middle with 8.5 percent.]

Catalyst发现,其他西方国家中,英国的比例为15%、德国为11.2%,日本则接近垫底,只有不到1%。(中国居中,为8.5%。)

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Nordic countries occupy the top three positions, with Norway being the world leader. Norway’s boards on average are 40.1 percent women.

北欧国家占据了前三。挪威居于全球第一,董事会里的女性比例平均值为40.1%。

That Norway is the leader is no coincidence. The country passed a law in 2003 to ensure that 40 percent of directors for all public companies were women. The proposed European Union law is likely to be based on the Norwegian one, and the idea behind both is simple: to take away any excuse for a company to avoid gender equality.

挪威排第一不是巧合。2003年,挪威通过法律要求所有上市公司40%的董事为女性。欧盟提案的相关法律可能就是基于挪威的经验。两者背后的理念都很简单:让公司没有逃避性别平等的任何借口。

The principles behind these laws are social and economic. The social element is based on the idea that the lack of women on boards is not a result of competency issues, but the clubby nature of these institutions. Lacking the ties to the men already on these boards, women are unjustly denied the opportunity to serve.

这些法律背后的基本原则涉及到社会和经济议题。社会因素基于的理念是,董事会女性身影的缺失不是能力不足的结果,而是出于这些机构的帮派性质。女性缺乏与董事会现有男性成员的联系,因而没有得到服务其中的公平机会。

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But there is also an economic argument that is sometimes made to support the role of women on boards. The claim is that boards with women become better decision makers, increase companies’ profits and lead them to be more humanely run.

不过还有一个经济因素有时也用来支持女性在董事会发挥作用。这种观点宣称,有女性的董事会能做出更好的决策、增加公司利润,并且带领公司走向更人性化的运营方式。

These assertions are based on research that in general makes the unsurprising conclusion that men and women are different. Studies have found that women in the boardroom have different values, make decisions differently and engender a more cooperative atmosphere.

这些论断基于的研究大致都得出了毫无意外的结论,即男女不同。有研究指出,女性董事持有不同的价值观、决策方式不同,还营造了一种更和谐的氛围。

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There’s even an Israeli study that finds that the more girls in a school class, the better both boys and girls do on test-taking, and another one that finds that orchestras with a greater representation of women have improved organizational performance in the long run, at least as perceived by the players. That women can have a positive effect on men is something that anyone observing a third-grade class could agree on, and perhaps surprisingly, it seems to work in the boardroom.

甚至有一项以色列的研究发现,学校班级的女孩越多,考试中男孩和女孩的成绩就都越好。另一项研究发现,拥有更多女性成员的管弦乐队,长期的协作表现将得以改善,至少乐手们这样认为。任何一个观察过三年级班级的人都会同意,女性对男性有积极影响。也许出人预料的是,在董事会里也是如此。

That men and women are different may be true, but this still doesn’t mean that the more women there are, the better the company’s profits. In two studies of the Norwegian experiment thus far, neither were supportive of the role of women on boards. One study found that Norwegian firms declined in value, while the other found a decrease in profitability.

男女不同也许是真的,但这也不能证明女性越多则公司利润越高。迄今有两个关于挪威经验的研究,都未能提供支持女性担任董事的结论。其中一项研究发现挪威公司价值下降,另一项则发现利润率下降了。

A few commentators explained the findings by noting that the mass appointment of Norwegian women at once led to younger and more inexperienced boards. The question remains, what happens when there is an equal weighting of women and experience?

几名评论人士解释这些结果的时候强调,一次性大量任命挪威女性让董事会变得更加年轻且经验不足。问题还是存在,如果男女性数量和经验都一致的话,将会怎样?

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The couple dozen general studies on the role of gender in the boardroom are more mixed. They come to differing conclusions, some finding women to be a benefit, others a negative, only creating more uncertainty over the issue.

有关董事会性别影响的几十项研究的结果更加含混。它们结论不一致,有些发现女性能带来好处,有些则认为是坏处。这只给问题制造更多的不确定性。

Because of this, the focus these days is on whether several women make a difference rather than having a token woman director. In this area, there is more support that women do have an effect.

正因为如此,最近的重点放在了几名女性董事是否会造成改变,而不是力求有一名象征性的女性董事。在这方面,有更多的证据支持女性的确能产生影响。

One study found that in German companies with a board composition that was greater than 40 percent women, firm performance was positive.

一项研究发现,董事会中女性比例高于40%的德国公司的业绩良好。

Another recent study, by Miriam Schwartz-Ziv of Israeli, found that boards with three women directors or greater were “approximately twice as likely both to request further information and to take an initiative” and have better performance.

另一项最近由以色列学者米丽娅姆·施瓦茨-齐夫(Miriam Schwartz-Ziv)所做的研究则发现,拥有三名及以上女性的董事会“有近两倍的可能性要求获得更多的信息和积极采取某项行动”,而且业绩也更好。

While these studies are promising for advocates of women on boards, the bottom line is that the effect of women directors has yet to be established. Whether they add value just by their presence is undetermined because the number of women on boards remains low. The true test will be when there are a number of companies with boards comprising 50 percent or more women that can be compared against those with less. We’re not there yet.

对那些支持女性进入董事会的人士而言,尽管这些研究带来希望,但女性董事的影响终究尚未得到确认。因为女性董事的数量仍很低,无法确定她们是否只要存在就有贡献。真正的考验应该是当许多公司女性董事的比例达到50%或以上的时候,业绩是否能与女性董事较少的公司相比。我们还没有到那一步。

The European Union is seeking to fulfill this goal. According to reports, the European Union justice commissioner is keen to introduce its law in the coming months. France and Italy are instituting quotas at the 20 percent level, and India recently required certain public companies to have at least one woman director. But passage of the European Union law is not certain. Britain has already issued a letter protesting the effort, asserting that voluntary measures should be given time.

欧盟正试图达到这一目标。据报道,欧盟委员会负责司法事务的委员倾向于在未来数月内引入相关法律。法国和意大利正在制订20%的配额制度,印度最近要求某些上市公司拥有至少一名女性董事。但欧盟法规是否能通过尚不确定。英国发布了一封抗议信,强调自愿措施应当有宽限时间。

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As for the United States, we’re clearly not there yet. Even talking about gender stereotypes makes many uneasy because it paints women and men with a uniform brush and doesn’t recognize that women and men are different depending on their individual qualities. And there is little likelihood of a quota system being enacted anytime soon.

就美国而言,显然也相差甚远。甚至谈论性别角色的刻板印象都会令许多人不安,因为它将女性和男性描绘为一样的,不承认女性与男性有取决于个人品性的差异。在美国,近期采用配额制度的可能性也很低。

Gender equality is one goal, but those who think that the number of women directors will reach a critical mass and change the way boards are governed are likely to be disappointed.

性别平等是一个目标,但那些认为女性董事将达到临界数量从而改变董事会管理方式的人,可能会感到失望。

Even if it is true that women are different, the way boards are run in the United States may make these differences meaningless.

即使女性真的有所不同,但美国董事会运作的方式可能会让这些差异变得无足轻重。

Boards are inherently behind the curve in decision-making and monitoring the all-powerful chief executive, something we saw in the years leading up to the financial crisis when boards failed to monitor their companies’ risky financial bets.

在做出决策与监督手握大权的首席执行官方面,董事会总是要慢上一步。我们在金融危机前的一些年里看到了这个现象,那时,董事会已不能监督公司的高风险财务赌注。

In addition, American directors largely come from the same class and business background, meaning these people can lull themselves into groupthink where diverse views are muted.

此外,美国公司的董事大部分来自相同的阶级和商业背景。这意味着他们会让自己陷入雷同的集体思维,扼杀多元化观点。

Even if more women directors are added, they are likely to come from this same background and class as their male counterparts. And these dynamics will mean that when women join boards, they’re more likely than not to act just as the men already there.

即便有更多女性董事加入,她们也可能是来自和男性同事一样的背景和阶级。这些因素意味着,当女性加入董事会的时候,她们更可能和男性的行事方式别无二致。

So if we are really serious about changing boards, we need to not only add new voices to the board, but find a way for the board itself to change.

因此,如果我们真心想改变董事会,我们不仅需要给董事会加入新声音,还需要找到改革董事会本身的途径。

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