At the February Business Women’s Networking lunch hosted by Lady Val Corbett, we are lucky to have specialists give advice on how women can grown their business and expand their reach in the world. Today was about how we might get onto a Board .. if that is a goal in our sights.
Our workshop speaker was Jeff Green, founder of Balanced Boards. His motivation behind launching this consultancy was his belief in the importance of inclusion, equality and equitable opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, or age.
Jeff has many senior contacts in the city and particularly among senior executives at Board level. He confided that some of his male colleagues who are on the receiving end of his passionate crusade to rebalance the country’s Boardrooms .. and have been known to resist conversation about what a few call “diversity nonsense”. To get them re-engaged Jeff has reframed the diversity agenda as social inclusion and mobility. Now that he says, they are much more willing to get behind. When they are reminded, these executives do actually want their own daughters and grand daughters to have equal opportunity, now and in the future. To have balance on a board it’s not just women’s voices that are needed, it’s everyone from all those other under represented groups of race, social class and under privilege. Then the Board is more likely to have the richer and diverse debate about an organisation’s more sustainable future.
Jeff is now actively engaged with US-based companies who have, or want to have, a global reach. It is easy to open up these leaders to the possibility of taking on a woman when he points out that they are aiming internationally and yet all their board members speak the same language and in no way reflect the markets the company aspires to. As they look east to Europe and Africa, Jeff is proposing non-American women for the vacancies that are opening up. Sounds like a pretty neat move.
- Getting onto the Board: If you want to makes change you have to be on the inside of the system and get as high up as you can get … even if you are actually a diversity hire. Grab the place and start working for others to join you. (Watch the movie on Amazon Prime called Late Night where this is the core story with spectacular results for change to the mono-culture of a Emma Thompson’s script-writing team who are all male, and white. See what happens when the female Asian woman joins the group!)
- What is a non-exec director? A non-executive director typically does not engage in the day-to-day management of the organization but is involved in policymaking and planning exercises. In addition, non-executive directors’ responsibilities include the monitoring of the executive directors and acting in the interest of the company stakeholders.
- Time and money: can be 1-2 days a week with typical payment of £48,000 to £980,000 per year
- Starting out: some advise getting on a charity board as a good start. Yes it does give you some Board experience but Jeff says this may not be the best way, unless the charity is a passion project for you. Being a school governor also gives you good experience.
- Good cv is needed: tailor your cv to really highlight your special skills and experience from which a company can benefit. Forget where you went to school, focus on what you can bring that will be of benefit and help grow the company.
- Soft skills are now much in demand so conveying your ability to be charismatic and articulate is helpful. Remember men are just as capable of these soft skills and the empathy, compassion and relationship building ability that women are deemed to have more of. It is often the culture that holds back these values so potentially the arrival of a woman (or more women) may create a bigger shift.
- Your special contribution: How can you help the company innovate? what can you do to support the increased focus on mental health.
- Networking: women often do not know where to network and they can end up networking with each other and not finding the right contacts for board positions. Jeff says to network in your particular domain, in your special industry or skill area. Contacts to higher levels can be gleaned if you focus there. He called this the lowest hanging fruit.
- Creating Change: Once on a Board you might find the need to shake things up … it is best to hold back on this until you have a sponsor to support you, preferably the Chair
- When to start: why wait til you are older? Young women in their 20s should start planning their progress to Board level, now.
Contact Jeff Green on Balanced Boards for more help getting onto a Board