“In 2015, the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies showed that 17.9% of corporate directors were women. This is a small number when you consider that: women comprise about half of the total U.S. workforce; hold half of all management positions; are responsible for almost 80% of all consumer spending; and account for 10 million majority-owned, privately-held firms in the U.S., employing over 13 million people and generating over $1.9 trillion in sales.” – Why Gender Matters, 2020wob.com
Reaching gender parity in the boardroom is a slow-moving process. More and more companies – especially larger, Fortune 500 companies – have specific goals for diversifying their boards, but often have trouble finding women executives who are ready for service on a corporate board. If serving on a board is one of your goals, here are the areas in which you’ll want to educate yourself:
Public board governance: Board and committee structures, functions and responsibilities
Differences between types of boards: Public corporate board, private corporate board, non-profit board, and mutual fund board
Ethics and compliance programs
Fiduciary responsibilities of public directors and director risk
Reading and understanding corporate financials, including balance sheets, P&Ls, and corporate stock documents
The board’s role in strategy, mission, and vision
Expectations of shareholders and how to effectively interface with them
Women often find themselves in a “chicken and egg” situation – they don’t have the experience they need, but no one will give them the chance to learn, and so they become frustrated at their inability to move forward. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be given jobs they are not yet qualified for with the understanding that they will be able to learn on the job. If looking at this list makes you feel discouraged, take heart, there are many ways to learn these skills and prepare yourself.
If looking at this list makes you feel discouraged, take heart – even if this experience is not currently on your resume, it doesn’t mean you should give up hope of board membership. All of these skills can be easily learned – what’s most important for you to understand is the value YOU can bring to a board. What is your unique story? How does your perspective add value to a board?
Also, as a woman executive, your path to the top may have been very different from that of the men on the board. While women do not serve simply to provide a “female perspective,” looking at the organization and its products or services through a different lens is extremely valuable. Combine your unique background and viewpoint with the skills listed above and you’ll soon be ready for board service.
If you are interested in serving on a board and want to learn how you can gain the skills and market yourself as a potential board member, get in touch. I’ve helped hundreds of women break the glass ceiling – are you next?