Women’s Board Award 2019

Women’s Board Award 2019 – Leena Niemistö was chosen to be the woman board professional of the year

By Seija Malmi

Women's Board Award (WBA) has announced Leena Niemistö to be the woman board professional of 2019. The other finalist nominees were Catarina Fagerholm and Anne Korkiakoski.

Women's Board Award nominates and supports the election of women as chairman of the board

Over the last 10 years, the amount of female board members have increased in Finland, even though the majority of board members are still men. It is especially rare with a woman as chairman of the board.

The purpose of the Women's Board Award's is to put female candidates in the spotlight as chairmen of boards and give recognition to women's competences in board work. Women's Board Award was founded in Norway in 2010. In Finland, the award has been given out since 2016, making this year's event the third. The previous award receivers have been Hille Korhonen and Nina Kopola.

Mercuri Urval, as the part of the jury, are doing the research about the women board professionals

In order to gain a better understanding of Finnish female leaders, Mercuri Urval carried out an extensive research for the WBA jury by researching well over one hundred female leaders and their backgrounds.

In the jury, it was emphasized to have a long career serving in boards and as a part of the management team. It is also important with a willingness to be a role model for future female leaders. There are equally as many young and very experienced women in the group of influential women as there are more senior. Hence, more junior influencers should be raised to be a part of a board.

When having a look at the different industries, no specific sector rose as favoring the women. In different boards, there are an equal number of women regardless of the industry. However, on executive level, it is possible to distinguish the positions most female leaders holds and from where they become board members. It shows that working as a CEO or CFO is a popular way of rising in to the boards.

Diversity is key to the success of a thriving board

The company's executive level and the board's task is to lead the company towards a successful future. For this purpose, a well functioning board needs an as diverse understanding as possible of the company's operations, working environment, current as well as future consumer behaviors. Should a board be too homogeneous in their way of thinking, actions or experiences, it might be difficult to achieve such a diverse understanding and thus, to create a successful strategy.

It is foremost important to aggregate the best possible professionals with a wide diversity considering the situation of the company. And the gender is just one form of diversity. With the most diverse backgrounds and current competencies of board members, a broadly competitive board will be deployed to help the company create high-quality strategic plans to support the management of the company.

Based on the SME-board indicator, the research shows that especially in large companies, equality has advanced - one third of board members are women. Even in SMEs, every fourth member of the board is a woman.

Three powerful and experienced finalists

The Women's Board Award receiver, Leena Niemistö, was selected based on her extensive experience and significant work on boards of several large companies, and for being a great role model.

Niemistö is currently on the board of seven companies, chairman of the board of the National Opera Foundation, and is an angel investor in several startup companies. She has served on boards of large companies for over ten years now. Niemistö's has a strong background in the field of health, and she holds a doctoral degree in Medicine. She led Dextra for a long time before selling it to Pihlajalinna in 2012, and she still act on the Pihlajalinna board.

Leena Niemistö is known not only for her role as an excellent leader, but also for her interest in helping young entrepreneurs and for her interest in art and music.

Catarina Fagerholm is an experienced leader and board member. During her career, she has been the CEO of Instru Optiikka Oy and BSH Kodinkoneet Oy, among others. She currently serves on the boards of three companies. She mentors and supports female leaders, for an example in Diamante's network.

Anne Korkiakoski has over 20 years of experience in management positions in various international companies, especially in marketing and communication. She currently serves in the boards of nine companies and in addition helps mentoring young professionals in their careers.