First congratulations! You are the new CEO of MIoD. What was your reaction to your election?
An opportunity came and I seized it! I am honored to accept this position and will work hard to instill the necessary International standard culture on corporate governance to all stakeholders from both public and private sector, supporting Mauritius as a regional leader.
You have a rich background in the private sector. How will you use your experience in the interest of your new responsibility?
21 years of hands-on experience in corporate governance related areas at both national and international levels, is definitely a competitive advantage for the institute. It is generally believed that an experienced and reliable professional can hit the ground running with little to no training. Same can efficiently fill the skills gap within an organization and often bring strong communication and leadership skills to the table.
Moreover, having served as board member for the past two years will ensure continuity at the level of the MIoD. I am thus looking forward to steer through the corporate governance sphere, driving the MIoD’s mission as an agent of change enabling directors and future leaders to achieve highest business practices for corporate sustainability.
You replace Linda Mamet, who was also another woman at the head of this institution. Should we see any symbol while men are still in the majority at the head of large groups and companies?
The well-known McKinsey reports have shown that having more women in leadership positions is advantageous both for individual companies and for the economy at large with the following rationale: more women at top levels of an organisation leads to better organisational and financial results and will pave the way for even greater numbers of women.
It is important to note that women comprise a little over half of Africa’s growing population and their contribution to the region’s economy is extensive; yet few, clearly not in significant numbers, have made it to middle management, senior officers and even hold CEO and Board Director positions in major companies.
Though organizations in Mauritius have seen some progress in increasing women’s representation in top leadership, there is still a lot of work to do.
According to a survey by the Mauritius Institute of Directors and Korn Ferry, the female presence has stagnated at 8.7 % on the boards of directors of private companies. We are far from countries like Norway and France where the presence of women on boards of directors averages out to 40 %.
As part of its strategic plan, the MIoD will reactivate the Women Director Forum with an aim to push for more women on boards and at leadership levels in private and public organisations in the Republic of Mauritius.
What is your opinion on corporate governance?
Governance, at its heart, provides the direction for a company or state-owned enterprise (SOE), irrespective of the size. Guidelines, standards and best practices established worldwide define what constitutes good governance and for instance in Mauritius, we have the National Code of Corporate Governance which call for a board to have independently minded directors with a minimum of two independent directors. However, good corporate governance is not simply about codes or rules; it involves strong leadership, a positive culture, robust systems and effective risk management.
According to the Economist (Essentials for Board Directors), poor corporate governance has ruined companies, resulted in directors being sent to jail, destroyed a global accounting firm and threatened companies and governments. On the other hand, a board stacked with friends or relatives of the top managers is less likely to act as a check and balance in serving shareholders’ interests.
Regardless of the type of venture, only good governance can deliver sustainable and solid business performance. Other than gaining the confidence of stakeholders especially shareholders and investors, key benefits are (1) improved reputation (2) fewer fines, penalties and lawsuits (3) enhanced efficiency (4) decreased conflicts and fraud.
Is the code of good governance observed in the private sector?
Today, it is generally acknowledged that corporate governance affects all of us both in private and public sectors. Our future depends on organisations being run responsibly and managed effectively for long term prosperity and for creating sustainable value for shareholders, stakeholders and the nation.
In Mauritius, there is the National Code of Corporate Governance which comprises a set of principles and guidance aimed at improving and guiding the governance practices of organisations. It forms part of a larger body of existing laws, rules, regulations, principles and best practices that include, amongst others, the Companies Act, 2001, Regulations, Listing rules for the Stock Exchange of Mauritius, Standards, guidelines and Codes of best practice (e.g. the Bank of Mauritius Guidelines.
Compliance with the reporting requirements specified in the Code of Corporate Governance are monitored by regulatory bodies like the Financial Services Commission and the Financial Reporting Council.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created shockwaves around the world and has radically changed our corporate attitude to sustainability, another crucial component of corporate governance. Companies that integrated sustainability and transparency strategically into their business operations prior to the COVID-19 crisis have put an even stronger focus on it now during the crisis. More importantly, companies have realized that they need to be much more agile in responding to unexpected events.
Actually, what needs to be improved or changed in this ecosystem?
Fostering good corporate governance should be seen more as value added exercise rather than a compliance or box ticking one.
It is a culture and a climate of consistency, responsibility, accountability, fairness, transparency, and efficiency that needs to be continuously deployed throughout the organisation. With most regulators now choosing a risk-based, outcomes-focused approach to their regulations, there is more of an emphasis on what good governance looks like, which places more responsibility on the senior management teams of businesses.
So, a corporate governance framework gives us a view of both what corporate governance is and the best practice that is needed to carry it out. However, if there is one thing that most of us can agree on right now, it is that the world in which we operate is changing rapidly. This means the habits and best practices that boards employ will need to change too. But how much do they need to change, and how are they going to do it?
We know that MIod’s mandate is limited to companies only. Do you think this should be extended to other organizations such as NGOs and political parties? What about the public sector?
The MIoD was officially incorporated on 18 January 2008 with a primary aim to advance corporate governance in Mauritius but later, it developed its mission statement, which was not restricted to private sector only.
The MIoD’s strategy and business model will continue to better champion best business practices and effective corporate governance, supporting Mauritius as a regional leader; and to be the voice of directors, through training and certification programmes, workshops and networking events, advocacy, research and thought leadership, reaching out to both private and public sector enterprises.
It will further collaborate with regulatory bodies and key institutions to establish and advocate corporate governance guidelines.
If we were able to learn about your professional experience, what about your personal life?
Happily married with two wonderful children studying in the United States.
The rhetorical question we ask every successful woman. But I put it down anyway. How do you manage to reconcile private life and career?
It’s all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.I firmly believe that this balance can help you become more productive and less susceptible to burnout. However, this balance requires careful planning and preparation, but it is possible. As they say: live your convictions and you can turn the world upside down.
I have been practicing yoga regularly for 15 years, swimming for ten years and most recently golf.
If you had one piece of advice for women, what would it be?
Be the girl you want your daughter to be, strive to reach your goal, be classy, be smart, be real, but most importantly be nice!