Kelly Skalicky shares how to find board members through a partnership with Women in the Boardroom. Her only problem: narrowing down the extraordinary candidate pool. Kelly spent her career practicing law before dedicating herself to working in the banking industry. She attained her juris doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law, and while still in law school earned the honor of serving as law clerk to The Honorable Michael J. Davis. After practicing in the areas of business litigation, commercial law, Indian law and commercial transactions, she worked her way up through the ranks at Stearns Bank, serving as legal counsel and designated General Counsel in 2011 before being promoted to President in December 2017 and now CEO in February 2019. She is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, Arizona, Illinois and New York.
Tell me about your experience as a CEO searching for a board member.
It is challenging to find qualified, motivated board members. Many times, it is limited to referrals from your current board members. But when your business has a national footprint, you have a real interest as a company in growing and expanding your customer base and your expertise — and keeping your finger on the pulse. So, it’s really important to have a strong, diverse board. And it’s a big feat to try to find a pool of board candidates who are genuinely interested in contributing to a company and really adding value, while also having the expertise to do so.
So what attracted you to work with Women in the Boardroom on your board candidate search?
We have a high percentage of women employees, about seventy to eighty percent. But many times in financial institutions, they work at the entry pay level. Many industries, financial services included, have been historically male-dominated. But we wanted to have our leadership reflect our employees. So it’s been a really big initiative for us to promote from within and have women as supervisors, managers, leaders, and that goes for the board as well.
We were looking for women of color to serve on our board because it’s very important for us to have our leadership reflect the diversity of our national customer base and add a different perspective. So we wanted our candidate pool to be more inclusive. We were really looking for women in the boardroom. And hence we came across Women in the Boardroom.
Tell me about the two candidates you selected from our members of Women in the Boardroom.
Among the Women in the Boardroom members who applied for our board opening, it was difficult to even narrow down the extraordinarily qualified, amazing candidates for interviews. And the candidates we did interview were just amazing, accomplished, dynamic, ambitious women with just extraordinary qualifications.
Women in the Boardroom is really doing a great job, and their members come with board service training, they’re really motivated, and they ask the right questions.
Have you noticed that Women in the Boardroom members are more prepared for board service? Yes, the Women in the Boardroom interviewees were just incredibly talented people and experienced professionals, but they also were really prepared with a lot of really great questions. We try to give them a lot of information on the company before the interview, and they prepared. They studied it. They do their own research on top of what we provide to them about the company. I don’t know what the candidates’ feedback would be, but I would hope that they felt really prepared, because from our view they really were.
What would you say to other companies or other CEOs who are wondering how to find board members?
I would highly recommend Women in the Boardroom to other companies looking for board members. Absolutely. In fact, I serve as a trustee of an educational institution, and I recommended it to them. From our vantage point, the pool of candidates had just about every level of diversity you could think of, so I’m really grateful.
What is one piece of advice you would give to women who are in search of a board seat? I would absolutely advise women who are interested in expanding and elevating their career experience to the boardroom to reach out and work with Women in the Boardroom to explore board service and learn how to maximize their professional experience and career development through board service. Women in the Boardroom offers great development tools, has a tried-and-tested foundation for board training and preparation, and provides opportunities to collaborate and consult with other seasoned professionals across the country and in a wide variety of industries who also are exploring boards and board seats.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If we want to see more women running companies and more women in the boardroom, then we need to lead by example. I think that’s our responsibility as community members and company leaders and owners. We want to show our employees how they can grow their careers within our company and in so many different ways, which includes board service. So, we enthusiastically share – and need to share — helpful and valuable resources, like Women in the Boardroom, among our employees.
If you’re looking for an excellent selection of board candidates to interview, submit your board opening to Women in the Boardroom.