Summary of first Womens Board Award in Finland 11 th March 2016

First Women’s Board Award handed out in Finland on 11th March

Women’s Board Award “WBA” was handed out in Finland for the first time on 11th March at an event held at Borenius Attorneys. The available seats were filled quickly, and the event attracted more than 120 business executives and board professionals to participate. The event program consisted of keynote speeches by Sari Baldauf and Esko Aho on the role of the board in turbulent times, as well as an award ceremony and a mingling session.

Juhani Talvia, Managing Director, AIG North Zone, welcomed the guests to the event and said: “AIG partners WBA in all the Nordic countries in an effort to promote talent, competence and diversity in boards. As a global insurer of directors and officers liabilities, we have a direct interest in keeping the business out of trouble and promoting first-class leadership skills.”

The role of the board in turbulent times

Sari Baldauf highlighted in her speech that successful boards should ensure that strategy is worked on throughout the year, and that boards should challenge their assumptions on a continuous basis by listening to both internal executives and external views. “Successful boards have a relentless focus on the future, and avoid getting too cozy. It is also important to establish an energizing atmosphere that is based on mutual respect and trust.”

Esko Aho noted that crises are a mandatory element of the global economy in which companies operate. “Due to the faster pace of change and the need to think global, crisis should not merely lead to cost-cutting and incremental improvements to products and services. We tend to forget that we are better problem-solvers than any previous generation and fully capable of overcoming obstacles that first come across as overwhelming.”

WBA 2016 winner and the winning finalists

The three winning finalists – Hille Korhonen, Kirsi Komi and Satu Huber, were selected from a range of nominees identified by WBA Partner, executive search company Alumni Harvey Nash and the WBA jury – Esko Aho (Head of the Jury), Sari Baldauf, Paula Salovaara, Aaro Cantell, Timo Ritakallio and Gunnar Eckbo.

According to Esko Aho, all three finalists should be seen as winners. “The jury view is that Hille Korhonen, Kirsi Komi and Satu Huber all possess the experience and skills required from a Board Chair. We chose to give the price to Hille Korhonen due to her vision regarding the role of the Board. Hille Korhonen has a comprehensive understanding of how the Board should react to changes in the operational environment. She also encourages the sharing of conflicting views, and is able and willing to use the competence of all board members.” 

Following the win, Hille Korhonen gets to participate in a three-day board programme “Leading from the Chair” at INSEAD – one of the world's leading graduate business schools – together with the WBA winners from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The program focuses on effective board leadership and the exchange of best practice between highly experienced peers from all parts of the world.

Hille Korhonen was very honored about receiving the award, and wanted to encourage women to “say yes” and pursue new challenges. “You will never be “fully ready” as a business executive or a board professional. Being passionate about strategy and the industry that you work in, and at the edge of your capabilities is in my experience the best way to learn.”

The vision and background of Women’s Board Award

Even if more than 30 % of board members in larger Finnish companies are women,[1] very few Board Chairs are female. [2] The purpose WBA is to give spotlight to female Board Chair candidates in order for election committees and other relevant stakeholders to see that that the pool of female candidates ready to take Chair responsibility in larger companies may be larger than we think. Ultimately, the target is to support the development of board competence.

WBA was initiated in Norway in 2010, and has since then become an established tradition also in Denmark and Sweden. “The need to establish WBA emerged, when I noted that there was a lack of female candidates for the Chair of the Year award.[3] The vision of Women’s Board Award is to increase boardroom competence in the Nordic countries and to highlight women who have the potential to take board chair positions in larger companies. WBA nominees are women that possess top-class leadership skills and considerable experience as board members and executives in companies with revenues above €100 million”, says Board Expert, Creator and Owner of WBA Gunnar Eckbo.

Factbox 1

Hille Korhonen; Lic. Tech., Helsinki University of Technology.

She is today CEO at Alko and Board Member at Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company, Finnish Commerce Federation as well as Nokian Tyres. She is also Delegation Member at Savonlinna Opera Festival, The Finnish Institute in Rome as well as Helsinki University of Technology and Advisory Board Member at Tampere University of Technology.

Previously, she has held the positions of Vice President of Operations at Fiskars Group, Director of Operations at Iittala and Director of Supply Chain at Nokia.

Satu Huber; M.Sc. Economics, The Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration.

Today, she is Managing Director at Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company and Board Member at Finnish Centre for Pensions, the Finnish Pension Alliance TELA and YIT.  She is also Board Member at EVA  and ETLA and active member of several other boards and committees, such as Agence France Trésor, the National Emergency Supply Agency and the Trilateral Commission.

Her previous positions include Deputy Managing Director at Elo, CEO at LocalTapiola Pension Company and Managing Director at the Federation of Finnish Financial Services.

Kirsi Komi; LL.M., University of Helsinki.

Today, she is Board Professional and serves as Board Member at Bittium, Citycon, Finnvera, Martela, Patria and Metsä Board. She is also Board Member at the Director’s Institute of Finland and the Guggenheim Helsinki Supporting Foundation and the Chairman of the Finnish Red Cross, Blood Service.

Previously, she has held the positions of General Counsel at Nokia Siemens Networks, Vice President Legal at Nokia Networks and Legal Counsel & Vice President of Contracts at Nokia.

On March 9th 2016 – just two days before the WBA event – she was appointed as Chair of the Veikkaus board, a Finnish lottery and gaming company.

Factbox 2

The WBA 2016 Jury 

Esko Aho (Chair of the Jury):            East Office of Finish Industries; Executive Chair. 

Sari Baldauf:                                     Fortum; Chair of the Board

Paula Salovaara:                                Räty-Salovaara-Blåfield; Entrepreneur

Aaro Cantell:                                      Normet Corporation; CEO and Chair

Timo Ritakallio:                                   Ilmarinen; President and CEO

Gunnar Eckbo:                                   Styreinformasjon, Creator and Owner of Women’s Board Award


[1] According to a study conducted by Finnish Chamber of Commerce, 24 % of the board members of exchange-listed, Finnish companies were women in 2015. In larger Finnish companies, women possess 30 % of board sets, whereas the share is 24 % in mid-size firms and 19 % in small firms.

[2] According to a study conducted by Finnish Chamber of Commerce, six women held the role of Board Chair in Finnish, exchange-listed companies in 2015. This is 5 % of all board chairs.

[3] Chair of the Year is WBA’s sibling award that has been handed out in Finland since 2007. 

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