We have been talking for years about the benefit to corporations to have women on their boards, and yet; the US continues to not be in step with the EU who has an objective to have 40% public company female directors in non-executive board seats by 2020. Norway, Spain and France currently have a mandate for 40% female. Why? There is extensive evidence that boards and companies with women in executive positions consistently outperform those with fewer or no female directors.
According to a recent report published by Women in the Boardroom, 70% of women consider board service a top career priority and feel confident they are prepared to serve and will obtain a board seat. “Part of the challenge in getting more female executives on corporate boards is qualified women identifying themselves as available for a board seat in the first place.” Women need to make their corporate board interests known.
“Part of the challenge in getting more female executives on corporate boards is qualified women identifying themselves as available for a board seat in the first place.”
The way to a board seat? Janet Hill who has served on multiple board and continues on 5 corporate boards today as well as being a trustee to the Duke University board offers great advice.
• We all need mentors to achieve our goals – men can be good mentors as well as women. You need both perspectives.
• Determine your skill set and prepare a resume for board submission that defines your strengths and is compelling.
• Spend time on not for profit boards to help build your resume and increase your network. How? Join a committee, chair the committee, move to the board! You must have meaningful participation to be noticed.
• Let it be known that you are interested. Do your research and get to know board members of companies you are interested in. It is a known fact that when a new director is sought, the search begins with existing board members – who do you know that would be a good fit? Search firms are occasionally used; however, internal through the existing board members I generally the norm.
• Network in your community through business organizations. Examples are the chambers of commerce, United Way, March of Dimes, technology organizations, board of trade, etc. When you attend, check out the registration list and make your time is strategic. Meet new people and always follow up.
In talking to several CREW board members and their experiences, they followed the strategies above. However, Becky Henry was offered a board seat as recognition of her contribution and service to her privately held engineering firm in Virginia Beach. Becky was the first female to serve on the board of directors of this 40 year old firm. We hope she won’t be the last!
Another interview was with Chuck Pennoni, chairman of Pennoni, a 50 year old engineering firm, headquartered in Philadelphia. Chuck has embraced having women on his board. He learned early on the power of women as he was the youngest of four siblings, all sisters ahead of him who became great achievers. For his board he looks for “time, talent and treasure*” (* ability to raise money!) Our own Judy Nitsch, who is chairman and Chief Excecutive Officer of her firm, Nitsch Engineering, had a major impact as member of Chuck’s board. The board was asked to approve corporate officer candidates and all of the candidates submitted were men. Judy noted they all appeared to be excellent candidates but would they be sending a negative message to the female employees? As a result, 2 of the 6 most recent candidates were women! Judy made her voice heard and made a difference. Chuck was Judy’s mentor for years and hence developed the relationship that led to her serving on Pennoni’s board. Judy also serves on the board of Eastern Bank in Boston.
• Network and build your relationships
• Design your personal plan of action; get your board resume in order. Include what you bring to board service.
• Collaborate: who do you know on boards? Let it be known you are interested.
This article was reproduced with permission by the CREW Network. Credits: Janet Hill, Hill Family Advisors; Judy Nitsch, Nitsch Engineering; Becky Henry, MSA, PC; Chuck Pennoni, Pennoni Engineering. The opinions and experiences expressed by the author or subjects do not necessarily reflect those of Women in the Boardroom.