A PricewaterhouseCoopers report into the fees and practices of non-executive directors in South Africa has recommended that boards consider including millennials - but it acknowledges resistance to the idea.
"There is a strong case for including millennials on boards of South African companies, as there is a feeling that they have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to emerging trends and risks," says PwC.
Only 9% of South African directors are younger than 35, according to a 2018 survey by the Institute of Directors SA (IoDSA). Some 18% were between the ages of 35 and 44.
The average age of chairpersons and non-executive directors at 325 JSE-listed companies polled by PwC has remained 55 over the past two years. Unsurprisingly, the average age for non-executive directors at companies operating in the digital skills-intensive tech industry is 48, the lowest out of all industries.
The shortage of digital skills and talent at leadership levels is cited as a risk with 59% of 1,378 CEOs in more than 90 territories including SA telling PwC in a separate survey they are "somewhat concerned" about the availability of skills in their senior leadership team, while 24% say they're "extremely concerned."
Still, critics "are of the view that, although the digital skills that millennial directors can bring are valuable, they should instead sit on a mirror board, rather than the main board," PricewaterhouseCoopers reports. This is mostly mainly due to their lack of experience.
Mentorship relationships between more seasoned board members and incoming millennial directors could better bridge the experience gap, according to PwC's recommendations. This should including proper training of young directors and ensuring that they understand their responsibilities.
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