In this article Claire spoke with Newcastle Herald’s Penelope Green about why she co-founded Women on Boards, and how WOB and why there is a board role for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.
Where were you raised and what influenced your career?
I grew up in the country - on a farm near Ebor in Northern NSW. We still own the land and I think of this as my spiritual home. My grandmother and father were the greatest influences on my early life and what they taught and exemplified remains at the core of who I am.
Ebor was where I shaped the values which have sustained me throughout my career and the ups and downs of life. I call them the three Rs: having Respect for others; taking Responsibility for my own actions; and developing Resilience to go out into the world and be the change l want to see.
You did a Bachelor of Communications after school. What were your early career roles?
I was a graduate of (BA) journalism degree at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst and had an early career as a journalist in Armidale, the Hunter Valley and Tasmania, where I worked as a political reponer on the Launceston Examiner in Hobart.
The biggest story I covered was the Port Arthur massacre of 1996 - a harrowing experiuence which became a career-changing moment, as I left the profesison shortly afterwards to take a job as media manager for Australia's peak body in the cotton industry. This lasted only a year before I was headhunted to run the fledgling Australian Beef Association, where I built a membership ol 1,300 beef producers inside 12 months before being sacked as Executive Officer by a newly elected board led by a male who clearly thought women might be more suited to secretarial duties!
This was another career changing moment and the start of the realisation that there were some big obstacles to women with ambitions to lead.
Why did you found Women on Boards in 2006 and what board experience did you have?
Following a few years consulting in media to NSW Fisheries in the Eddie Obeid years, I founded a small business with my partner, investigating publishing opportunities in the space. The focus on agriculture and science shifted to women in leadership when a board role on the Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women led to an opportunity to be part of a pilot project to increase numbers of women on boards.
What started as a loose project of well-intentioned women's organisations was turned by myself and my business partner, Ruth Medd, into a business that has been at the vanguard of moving women into board roles through innovative programs and services and strong advocacy.
ln 2011, l received a Churchill Fellowship to examine policies and programs in the UK, Norway and France to increase the number of women on boards and in management/ executive roles. I Interviewed more than 60 people, presented to a professional women’s network and a university forum and attended a global women's forum. A key outcome was the founding of Women on Boards in the UK.
What services does WOB offer women and how Is it financed?
WOB offers a broad range of high quality programs, events and services, all offered at sizable reductions to our members. Its programs cover:
- Leadership and career development
- Pathways to the boardroom, including a board-ready CV and better ability to understand and talk to your transferable skills
- Access to a wide range of board positions and personal support to assist women through the interview process.
- A members only online community - WOBShare
What is your key message?
At WOB we always say that there is a board role for everyone - it’s just a matter of finding the right one and getting yourself aligned and organised to get onto the board. In my address I will also cover:
- An overview of where we have come from and where we are now viz-a-viz
- the data around women on boards.
- Practical suggestions for women who aspire to get on a board or two but don’t know where to start.
- The tangibles of ‘fit' for a board role.
- Aligning your values with your opportunity to serve.
- What expectations you should have when you are appointed to a board.
What do you think is critical in getting women into the boardroom?
To paraphrase the famous words of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States at a reception in Paris in 1910: To gain a board role you need to be in the arena, to strive valiantly, to err and to fall short again and again. In other words, you need to be ready to accept knockbacks and feedback over and again, but in the end if you persist you will know the triumph of high achievement and you will succeed.
NOTE: This article is an edited version of a story which first appeared on the Newcastle Herald website in 2021, in which Claire was talking ahead of a presentation at the Business and Professional Women Newcastle event.
Download a PDF of the original story HERE.