Common concerns we hear at WIB, answered by Sheila Ronning | Women in the Boardroom


#SheilaSays series on No More Excuses to Getting on a Board

Common concerns we hear at WIB, answered by Sheila Ronning

No More Excuses

With the start of a new year, it is time to break down the barriers for women in the boardroom. Sometimes, the barriers come from women who find excuses for not doing the work to get their seat at the table. This #SheilaSays series goes through some of the most common excuses. The hope is that sharing these will help those who can relate, allowing them to push forward.

Common Excuse: I’m not sure I’m qualified to be on a board.

“If you are in charge of a significant budget, oversee or manage a group of people, or are part of making the final decision on strategy or investments for the company, then you are a senior-level executive and qualified to be on a board. Of course, each board will have their own specifications when looking for the right director but women who’ve met this level in their career should feel more secure and confident that they are sought after as board candidates.”

Common Excuse: I don’t have a network.

“I am no stranger to hearing the concerns of women trying to navigate their network with the intention of becoming a corporate board member. The good news is that I am ALWAYS able to help! Defining your value add for board service and clearly articulating it to your network is the best chance of getting your seat at the table but this can consume a lot of time and leave you frustrated – signs you are not working your network correctly. Thankfully, we’ve created a networking process at Women in the Boardroom that helps you figure out who the key people are in your network to reach out to, how to contact your network, what to say and what NOT to say, and how to maintain those relationships. Our process works and our success rate at helping members secure board seats is proof!”

Common Excuse: I’m too busy.

“Everyone has responsibilities. Everyone is busy. But people make time to prioritize the things that they really want. If you do not have time for the things that will help you get onto a board, you will likely struggle to manage the responsibilities of being a director.”

Common Excuse: It’s still the “old boys club”.

“The boardroom is commonly viewed as a men’s club. Not only are most, if not all, of the people around the table men, but so are many of the influencers & connectors to director positions on boards. Look, you’re not a man so dwelling on the fact that you’d have more opportunities if you were is pointless. Instead, use your valuable time & energy to let the men’s club know you’re interested in corporate board service. You may find that plenty of men will help you on your board journey.”

Here are several actions that #SheilaSays you can take to help earn a seat at the boardroom table:

Action: Know Your Value.

“You must stop holding yourself back. Chances are that if you are ready to undertake board service, you believe that you would be a value-add to a company. Trust that instinct and do not sell yourself short when the opportunity arises to apply for positions – especially for folks with several years of experience in the C-suite or other prominent executive positions. Know what you are worth to a company seeking board members.”

Action: Break up the status quo.

“If you have been on the hunt for a board seat for a while, it might be time to shake things up. Patience is not always the best method, and you may have to go outside of your comfort zone to advance into the boardroom. Stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. Try something new. Be bolder.”

Action: Have a clear understanding of what board service entails.

“There is real value in knowing what it takes to be an effective member on a board. For example, you need to be comfortable reading and understanding financial statements or knowing what the different committees are and what they do. You must spend time preparing for meetings and reading the board packet. Once you comprehend the roles, obligations, duties, and time commitment that board directors face, then make an informed decision to move forward with a board position that is right for you.”

Action: Excel at what you do.

“It is important that you not only demonstrate that you have held leadership roles, but that you have a proven track record of success. Having a clear progression of increasing responsibility throughout your career is helpful. As you continue to build your experience, take note of your accomplishments and achievements and the impact they’ve had. Additionally, when it comes to getting a board seat, general business leadership is a great start and baseline expectation. However, specializing in a needed field like technology or cybersecurity makes you an even greater asset to corporate boards.”

Action: Be known as an expert.

“This is a solid action that goes a long way in achieving board service and builds up your professional reputation. Having a well-known and respected voice in your industry implies expertise and identifies you as a qualified leader in the space, making you more established in the right communities. Do not be afraid to let people know what you know.”

Action: Let people know you are interested.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your network wants to help you but you need to help them help you. Do not assume your network knows that you are looking to serve on a corporate board. Share your board goal with them.” 

Action: Network at every opportunity.

“This is the most important step. With search firms filling less than 15% of corporate board seats, networking is crucial. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for your 1st, 2nd or 3rd board seat, you have to network. Knowing who in your network to reach out to, how and when to reach out to them, and what to say is vital. Timing is also key and a big component in maintaining these relationships. But don’t think that it is only the people in your current network that you should be reaching out to. We all have people in our network that we need to re-engage with. Working your  connections using our proven networking process will always give you the biggest ROI in landing your board seat.”

“With more than 15 years of experience and over 40% of our VIP Members serving on corporate boards, we are the experts that will help you get your seat at the table. We provide a customized step-by-step approach to getting on your 1st, 2nd or 3rd corporate board that includes our exclusive programs, including our Matchmaking Program (TM), Annual Board Assembly and proven networking process. Watch this video to learn more.

About Women in the Boardroom™

Since 2002, we have been the experts that help you get your seat at the table. We provide a customized step-by-step approach to getting on your 1st, 2nd or 3rd corporate board that includes exclusive programs such as our Matchmaking Program™, Annual Board Assembly and proven networking process. And with nearly 50% of our VIP Members serving on corporate boards, our proven process works!

Learn More