Advice for Women Looking to Join a Board in 2019

December 19, 2018

While there’s still along way to go before there’s gender equity in the nation’s boardrooms, women are making more and more progress each year.

Sometimes, however, women need a bit more help if they’re looking to land their first board seat.

If your New Year’s resolution is to get on a board this year, here’s the top ten things you should be doing, according to Betsy Atkins, CEO of Baja Corp., and director at Cognizant, Wynn Resorts, SL Green Realty, Schneider Electric, and Volvo Cars.

1.         Build your brand.

a.         Update your LinkedIn profile with a board role focus, be sure to mention if you have experience transforming a company. 

b.         Create your own website with content that supports your brand.  Content can be blogs, YouTube videos, links to articles you have written or been quoted in, Whitepapers, conferences you  have led or been a speaker at.

2.         Let everyone in your network know you are looking for a board role.  Have confidence and conviction about your qualifications, speak up for yourself.  How you say something, and When you say it, are as important as What you say.

3.         Sign up for the board matching websites that will assist you in landing a board seat; NACD, TheBoardList.com, Athena Alliance, ExecRanks.  Get to know your venture capitalists and private equity players, try and help them.

4.         Elevate your networks to more powerful networks, but join because you are interested and it’s something you enjoy, not just to meet people.  You must actually engage, follow up on introductions and try and go out of your way to do a favor or share something useful.  The network closest to you, with the people above you who believe in you, will be the one that is most effective.

5.         Always take a recruiters call, even if you love your job, you may be able to help them fill the slot and then you have paid in and been helpful in case you need help in the future.  Look abroad for opportunities, they have mandates they have to meet for women board members.  Ask recruiters to introduce you to their European counterpart.

6.         Take a governance course at a University (Harvard, Northwestern Kellogg, etc.)  This is also a networking opportunity.

7.         Once you Identify your target company, explain how you add value by mapping yourself to the current board and be able to say how you will fill the gaps and how you will accelerate the company.  Translate your strengths into a stewardship story. 

8.         Watch YouTube videos or read interviews of the CEO and senior leadership team.  Pay attention to their jargon, their buzzwords and what is important to their company culture.  Psychological mirroring can be helpful here.

9.         Be able to name three specific things you can do for the company and create evidence of your unique skills and value.  They will have a matrix of skills they are looking for, so address those skills.  Don’t worry about the skills you don’t have, focus on the ones you do have.  The interview conversation should be about “what you bring to the table” versus just “about you.”  Problem solve the company’s issues in advance and be able to articulate your thoughts on how to solve those issues.

10.       Women who reach the board level do so because they self-select. Know your strengths and choose an environment that you are comfortable in.  Choose a company where you feel a connection, like the CEO, care about the company, can add value and be useful, ultimately where you can over-deliver.