Women Climbing Into Board Seats
This past fall, I was fortunate to spend a half-day with the talented women of The Boston Club for a panel discussion and workshop designed to introduce us to the process of winning a corporate board seat. The panelists were highly experienced board members with a wealth of insights and practical tips that I thought the Colony Women & Wealth Connect community would like to hear. Here are my key takeaways:
What is Your Why?
Spend some time thinking about why you would like to join a public or private corporate board. Is it for a new intellectual challenge? Are you looking to put your years of industry-specific knowledge to use? Or perhaps you want to learn more about a new industry. Some might be looking to extend their years of earning compensation as they wind down an active corporate or professional career. Answering these questions will help lead you to the types of board opportunities you would like to pursue.
Network Your Way In
In almost all cases, the women on the panel were known by numerous board members prior to being appointed. If they did not already know someone influential on the board, they used their network to get introduced or at least have their name mentioned as a strong candidate. The panelists encouraged us to think broadly about our networks as it was often business partners, from lawyers to private equity investors, who made the introduction. One even chuckled that her name had been shared so many times with a current board that she was the only independent candidate they could all agree on, and she won an independent seat! Not surprisingly, LinkedIn and Google were mentioned as valuable tools in finding the right connections.
What is Your Story?
This is not a typical job interview—it will require you to spend time carefully honing your story. In advance of a search, you should consider spending time developing a new area of competency that would be of interest to boards you are seeking. One woman became an expert in corporate governance, for example. Others spoke of the importance of expanding your expertise in hot-button areas; for example, an IT expert could spend more time on cyber security. Once you are confident in telling your story, you must build a board resume and, of course, update your LinkedIn profile. The panelists also reminded us not to forget the softer skills, in terms of communication and relationships. The current board will try to assess if you will be easy to work with, especially when a crisis inevitably occurs.
Start Now and Be Vocal
Despite the fact that many boards are actively looking to fill seats with talented women, it can take years to land that first corporate board seat. The key is to start early. You need to tell your story loud and clear.
So when will you get started?