A new book by Nancy Calderon of KPMG and Susan Stautberg of WomenCorporateDirectors, Women on Board, uncovers the secrets to getting nominated for a corporate board seat if you are a woman.
The duo interviewed hundreds of board chairs, CEOs, nominating committee chairs and other board members to ascertain what it takes for a woman to be selected as a corporate director.
The traditional path to directorship – via the position of being a seated CEO – is slowly being somewhat displaced by other routes to the boardroom.
“CEOs are now usually limited to serving on one outside board, so companies are casting a wider net,” says Calderon. “CEOs are now usually limited to serving on one outside board, so companies are casting a wider net,” says Nancy Calderon, global lead Partner at KPMG LLP.
“And as corporate boards are opening themselves up to more diverse slates of director candidates,” says Stautberg, “there is a window of opportunity for those seeking to get on a board.”
“And as corporate boards are opening themselves up to more diverse sources of director candidates,” says Stautberg, “there is a window of opportunity for those seeking to get on a board.”
For those qualified women leaders who are seeking a board seat, Calderon and Stautberg offer some strategies for success:
* Meeting what the market demands. “Understand the skills most valued by boards, and play these to their fullest,” says Calderon. “Always wanted is experience as a CEO, CFO, or CPA, but other areas currently trending are expertise in CAMS (Cloud, Analytics, Mobility and/or Social Media) and other technology experience, such as data security, that are board hot-button issues.”
* Highlight your global know-how. “Globalisation of customers, supply chains and employees means that companies are seeking candidates who have a real comfort level and knowledge beyond domestic markets,” says Stautberg. Emphasize any foreign languages you know, and emphasize experience you may have in BRIC or ASEAN countries in particular.
* Build a more “board-able” CV. “If you have gaps in your expertise, start taking on more projects at work that fill these in,” says Calderon. “Ask for a P&L responsibility, even for a smaller division, which will enhance the perception of you as bringing valuable ‘hard skills’ to boards for their various financial committees.”
* Leverage a background outside the traditional C-suite. “Board candidates with increasing appeal are those who have served as president of a university, or who hold a relevant leadership position within the federal government, or who have worked as an entrepreneur in a related industry,” says Stautberg. “These types of people bring richness to a board, and these types of places are good recruiting grounds for directors.”
* Become a visible industry leader. “Serve on association or government boards, speak at conferences, and write articles for high-profile industry publications,” says Stautberg. Nominating committees and search firms want industry leaders who both understand relevant market trends and have key contacts.
* Find both mentors and sponsors. Mentors can brief you on how to get noticed for a board seat and how to understand a board’s culture – these can help provide guidance and support. “But sponsors are the real key to closing the deal,” says Stautberg. “They are the ones who can influence board placement by being your champion with other directors they know.”
* Start small. On average, it takes more than two years to be selected as a board director, and the first one is the hardest. Be realistic, says Calderon. “A Fortune 100 company isn’t likely to be your first board, unless you are the CEO of another Fortune 100 company. Small, for-profit companies and advisory boards are great starting places.”