This morning at Women Executive Leaderhip's Corporate Salute, I listened as a handful of powerful women talked about how they landed a board seat at some of the biggest companies in America (McDonald's, Cox Communications,Pennzoil-Quaker State Corporation)
Being on a board not only pays well, it can allow someone to influence corporate strategy at a company they patronize. Yes, it is a time commitment, but it comes with a great deal of prestige, a chance to exert a strong voice and an opportunity to meet influential people.
Some key strategic moves:
Get connected. Hearing these women speak, it dawned on me what these board directors had in common: they knew the right person who advocated for them. While these women were qualified, they got the position after being recommended by someone with an in. Chances are you have the right connections, too. You just have to use them."I can't stress enough the importance of networking with other women in power," said Terry Savage, a nationally known expert on personal finance, the markets, and the economy.
Put the word out. Last week, when I was out at Perry Ellis International and spoke with CEO George Feldenkreis, he told me that women are often low key about their skills or interest in being on a board. You have to make yourself visible to sitting board members, and you have to make them aware of your strengths and skills, he told me.
Gain the confidence. You also have to believe that you have what it takes to serve on board. "It's amazing to me how prepared women are without knowing it," said Lynn Martin, former U.S. Secretary of Labor who has held numerous board seats.
Make an action plan. Stephanie Sonnabend, co-founder of 2020 Women On Boards, advises creating an action plan that includes deciding what companies or industries you want to target for a board position, inventorying your skills to fill the gaps and preparing your resume, bio and elevator speech.
Get past work life concerns. My Miami Herald column goes more in depth about the status of women in the boardroom in Florida and nationwide. I found these comments by Korn Ferry's Bonnie Crabtree right on point:
To land board seats, you need to go after them and get past the real or perceived work/life balance concerns or lack of confidence that holds you back.
“Women say they would love to be on a board, but that isn’t enough. They must research what boards are looking for, their own experience, and work to close the gaps.”
Crabtree said qualified women need to believe they can do the job and step up for consideration. “Women worry more about travel or the time investment to be on a board or getting permission from their CEO, and they unconsciously take themselves out of the running.”
Do you think you have what it takes to land a board seat? Having diverse boards makes good business sense. Are you willing to help prove that point?
(Cindy Goodman, Michelle Eisner, Stephanie Sonnabend and Shari Roth at Women Executive Leadership's Corporate Salute)