By Paul Smith, Co-founder and CEO //
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jane Goodall at a Macquarie University event. While there, I was introduced to someone who has made a lasting impact on me and the many other people whom I’ve told this story to. This someone was an 11-year old boy by the name of Tyne Jones. Tyne had recently been featured on ABC’s Q&A (almost stealing the show while he was at it) and had been invited to the university event with his family as a result.
Everyone is important
I met Tyne through one of the event organisers, who introduced me as ‘Paul Smith, the chairperson of the Jane Goodall Institute and a very important person.’ I, in my typically British manner, reached for Tyne’s hand and said with a smile, ‘Hi I’m Paul, don’t worry I’m not that important.’ As Tyne was shaking my hand, he looked straight into my eyes with maturity beyond his young years and replied, ‘Paul, everyone is important.’
Tyne’s kind, refreshing attitude is the prime example of why I like working with younger people. They ooze positivity, and while some may mistake that for naivety, it’s simply not the case. Younger people have yet to be downtrodden and embittered by the world we live in, and it’s my hope that it never happens to them.
Or consider Holly Ransom. Holly is a young, intelligent, capable woman, CEO of Emergent – a successful company that aims to disrupt and induce change across the executive level – and has a wealth of non-executive director experience. Holly has a corporate resume that would rival any cliche of a board director, and is a prime example of why age does not equal ability.
Yet another example is Parrys Raines, an Alumni of Future Directors and the CEO of her own business. From the age of 14 Parrys has been lobbying for climate change and launched her organisation, Climate Girl, the same year. Since then, Parrys has held many interviews, been invited to speak at numerous events and has encouraged young people across the world to not only gain a better understanding of environmental issues like climate change, but to actively participate in changing these issues for the better. At such a young age, Parrys has done more than many men and women twice or even three times older than her.
Young people in the boardroom?
Aside from these examples, why else should you consider a younger person for your board role? Younger people could be considered to be less set in their ways. They’re more adaptable to change and disruption, which is a great asset in the current climate. Younger people are able to see diversity as a positive, and view the world through different lenses when compared to their older counterparts. Their perspectives and experiences (even though you might think they have little of both) can refresh any stagnant boardroom. Not to mention, younger people are the largest part of both the workforce and customer base, and within a decade, the same will be said for the investment market. Given that younger people will be major stakeholders of many organisations and companies, doesn’t it make sense to introduce them as soon as possible?
Younger people are more capable than many give them credit for. It is critical that they be considered when the opportunity arises. There is a place in the boardroom for everyone of all ages, but with their purposeful, energetic insights into life, their unique ideas about how to change the status quo (and why it’s so important to do so) and both their intre/entrepreneurial mindsets, younger people can bring a wealth of skills to any board.