Boardman International Blog: The Vital Role of Boardman International Working Group in Promoting Diversity in Finnish Boardrooms

Boardman International Blog: The Vital Role of Boardman International Working Group in Promoting Diversity in Finnish Boardrooms

As a foreign (Dutch) business professional, married to a Finnish woman, I fell in love with Finland during my first visit in the winter of 1994. At that time, we lived in Singapore, and I was struck by the severe weather conditions compared to the tropical climate back “home”.

Steven ter Horst is a member of the Boardman International Working Group. The working group develops the Boardman Membership.

Steven ter Horst is a member of the Boardman International Working Group. The working group develops the Boardman Membership.

Besides the obvious weather and cultural differences, I noticed that being a foreigner in Finland was something unique. People approached me in the street and were eager to learn where I came from and what brought me to their beautiful country. Back then, there was already genuine interest, openness and eagerness to learn from visitors from abroad.

The Work Force in Finland Has Become More Diversified

In 2013, we decided to move with the family to Finland. Visiting or living in a country is a huge difference, so now I had a chance to really experience Finland. It was amazing to see how Finland had evolved during those 20 years.

As an independent management consultant, I started to collaborate with various medium and large sized companies in the Helsinki area. Having international experience in marketing and sales was welcomed by Finnish companies and creative agencies who were expanding their wings beyond Finland and Nordic region.

During the last 10 years, Finland continued to become more diversified, and the number of foreign professionals has grown steadily. Driven by gaming, tech, start-ups and growth companies, foreign talent was hired from abroad due to lack of qualified people in certain industries. This has changed the business perspective and acceptance of professional foreigners significantly.

Finland has an amazing start-up scene. Being the happiest country in the world attracts even more talent that Finnish companies desperately need to drive innovation, R&D and international growth. Since the workforce has become more international, management and boards have realized that they need to become more diversified as well to reflect society, understand customer needs better and to retain an attractive employer.

Boardman’s CG and Board Work in Finland Training Gave an Understanding of What it Takes to Become a Board Member

The moment I heard of Boardman and their CG and Board Work in Finland Training, I signed up right away. Boardman’s board work training was very insightful, provided in English, and it gave me a good understanding of what it takes to become a board member in Finland. It also highlighted the differences in terms of responsibilities and liabilities compared to board positions in other countries.

After I finished the course, I was asked to join the Boardman International Working Group. In this group, we develop the strategy and various annual network activities to attract more foreign professionals to become Boardman Members.

In the next few years, we will train more foreign professionals and build a community of foreign professionals (living in Finland and abroad) who have the interest, desire, and knowledge to become a board member.

Since Boardman Members are part of Boardman, there are plenty of opportunities for foreigners to network with experienced board members, exchange ideas and learn. This is truly unique. It opens doors and helps foreign professionals to connect with key decision makers and interesting companies informally.

In order to become a Boardman Member, you need to successfully complete the CG and Board Work in Finland Training or have two references from Boardman network to get final approval by the Boardman International Working Group.

13 Percent of New Board Members in Finnish Boards Are International

Tesi’s latest report “Composition of Finnish Boards 2023” shows that the proportion of international board members among new board members has steadily increased over the long term. Currently, approximately 13% of new board members are international, compared to 3,5% 10 years ago. International board members are especially prevalent in large companies, growth-oriented companies, and in the field of information and communication.

Of the 564 new international Board members in 2022/2023, most were from Sweden (33%). However, more exotic countries like US, UK, Norway, Netherlands, France and China also made it to the top 10.

Larger Companies Have a Considerably Higher Percentage of International Board Members

The size of the company has a major bearing on the number of international board members, the same Tesi’s study shows. Some 24% of the board members of large cap companies have an international background. Many mid cap and family companies consider international board members, but their main concern is the language.

This is one of the focus areas for Boardman International working group and we will address and support Finnish companies with their transition, if needed. Having a more diversified board will outweigh the short-term linguistic challenges.

Boardman International Working Group Builds a Network and Trains Foreign Professionals

Boardman International Working Group will continue to build a network of foreign professionals and train them to become a successful future board member for Finnish companies. Finnish society, companies and boards have become more diversified and since the world is getting more and more connected every day, it is expected to continue in years to come. Helping Finnish companies in their search for trained and experienced foreign board members is a privilege and we are driven to contribute to this.

If you want to learn more about Boardman Membership, visit our website here or contact Karoliina Kuhalampi at karoliina.kuhalampi@boardman.fi.

Read more and apply for Boardman Membership!

Author

Steven ter Horst is a member of the Boardman International Working Group and an alumnus of Boardman’s CG and Board Work in Finland training, class of 2022. He nowadays lives in the Netherlands, but still works as an advisor with Finnish companies.