There are, of course, many reasons why there aren’t enough women on Board to make the corporate person even slightly metrosexual.
Some of them are personal and some of them are systemic. They usually overlap, which is why we used to say “the personal is the political.”
I don’t like to focus too much on problems we can’t control, implied bias and the like, because I believe there are enough women in power today to bring the female ying to the male yang of corporate power without any special privileges or legal mandates.
All of that said, the real reason there aren’t more women on Boards is that there are not enough of us who believe we’re qualified to serve.
The Low Self-Esteem Girls’ Club
When I was practicing law at the top of my profession with other women at the top of theirs, we used to joke among ourselves that we were all charter members of the Low Self-Esteem Girls’ Club.
Only later would I realize the deep truth of the matter and the way my lack of confidence held me back from seeking an ownership interest in my last law firm. I left my blood, sweat and tears in the walls of more AmLaw100 firms than I care to recall. And, frankly, it was mostly my fault.
Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy piece about Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College, a member of the prestigious Claremont Colleges just east of Los Angeles. Maria is not, nor do I believe she has ever been, a member of the Low Self-Esteem Girls’ Club. And today, she’s one of two women on Microsoft’s Board of Directors.
There are Too Many Superstars and Not Enough Highly Competent Women in Seats of Power
When we meet the Maria Klawes of the world – women who rise to the very top of their professions – we too often convince ourselves that we’ve got to be world-changing superstars to become GC of a Fortune 500 firm, CEO of a top tech firm in the Silicon Valley, or Managing Partner of an AmLaw 10 firm.
As a Forbes blogger, I’ve called dozens of men and women for comment on newsworthy events within their expertise. More than half of the ridiculously highly qualified women I spoke with told me they weren’t expert enough to comment.
No man has ever said that to me even when he was far less qualified than the women who’d demurred on the ground that they were not good enough.
As my friend the leadership consultant and ForbesWoman blogger Gloria Feldt reminds me, only 15% of all op-ed pieces in the mainstream media are written by women because women submit only 15% of all op-ed pieces to the mainstream media.
As we used to say, “click.”
What You Can Do About It
If you’re reading ForbesWoman, I submit that you are deep enough into the business of commerce to write an op-ed piece, run for Congress, seek equity partnership in your law firm, demand a raise and make your way onto a corporate board.
Here are the ten most important steps to take to accomplish that goal from Sheila Ronning who believed in your ability to serve on Boards strongly enough to found the organization, Women in the Boardroom in 2002, long before women on Boards was a hot topic.
1. Develop a Strategic Plan to take you there.
2. Develop a reputation for excellence and show leadership in your main job and industry.
3. Educate yourself on board responsibilities and learn what it is like to be on a board.
4. Assess your skill set – what can you bring to the table? Fill in any gaps that you are lacking with the necessary skills.
5. Bring your “A” game to whatever you do because people are watching you. Dress well, be prepared, show up for every meeting. Do not work the smartphone under the table; people always notice.
6. Build your profile, your personal brand and have a board resume. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a sample.
7. Tell people you know and respect, especially sitting directors or those who interact with directors, that you are seeking a board seat. Identify and meet all women directors in your city or region, because women directors often make it their mission to get other women on boards.
8. Work to get on a government commission or committee, whether local, county, state or national.
9. Seek out acquaintances who own their own companies, and volunteer to start or serve on their advisory boards.
10. Get to know recruiters at search firms.
Women in the Boardroom Can Help You Get on Board
Women in the Boardroom does more than put on panels of superstars who make you feel lesser than you really are. They also run sessions on networking, executive presence , and building confidence.
Yes, you do need to understand financials and Women in the Boardroom has a recorded three-part series called “Financial Storytelling” to help you read a profit and loss statement as well as other financial reports Board members must know and understand to serve their oversight corporate governance function.
They even have a premium membership program at different levels to match the precise point of progress any woman Board aspirant is currently at, including connecting women with a Board advisor to mentor and sponsor her Board aspirations.
There you have it. No quotas, no new laws, no tearing down the patriarchy.
Work to be sure, but work enough women are willing and capable of doing to assure that the more political power corporations arrogate to themselves, the more those centers of power will naturally represent the interests of both the men and the women on their Boards.
Thanks to ForbesWomen for giving us permission to share this article. The opinions and experiences expressed by the author or subjects do not necessarily reflect those of Women in the Boardroom.