Shift to the boardroom a slow burn


In 2010 when Emeritus Professor Julie Cotter was thinking about a shift to the boardroom, she completed her Company Directors course and then started to look around for roles.  As she told the assembled guests at the Women on Boards Director Lunch at Clayton Utz in Brisbane last week, she had ‘some success, but not as much as she expected.'


Julie gave a candid account of the ups and downs of her NED career; illustrating that there are many pathways to the boardroom – not all of which are direct.

Her first board came in 2012 when she was invited onto the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service in Ipswich on the back of her unsuccessful application to the equivalent service in the Darling Downs. She was also appointed to the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise at the same time – so thought her board career was well under way.

Career pressures and family issues saw her step away from the boardroom in 2015 but put her toe back in the water again in 2016 when she was appointed to the Australian Agricultural Company Scientific Advisory Committee (chaired by former CEO of CSIRO, Dr Megan Clark).

In 2017 Julie decided to take the leap to boards or a ‘portfolio career’ and left her position as Professor of Accounting at Southern Cross University and was appointed to the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service Board and an audit & risk committee with the Department of Education.

WOB Chair, Ruth Medd, who reviewed Julie’s profile in 2017 made the remark that it looked ‘too regional Queensland’, and that a national board role would round her experience out. As fortune would have it, Exercise Sports Science Australia was seeking a board member via the WOB Vacancy Board and Julie applied. She was successful and is now one of only three independent skills-based directors on a 7,000-member based organisation.

She is now looking to add to her portfolio and wants to find a board that will take advantage of her commercialisation and innovation experience, rather than her accounting expertise.

As a participant on the WOBSX peer-to-peer mentoring program, Julie had some sound advice for those seeking a portfolio career as a Non Executive Director.

  1. Play to your strengths and be strategic about seeking board roles in sectors / areas where you have deep experience and can solve problems.
  2. Never underestimate the importance of your network and social connections.
  3. Know how to articulate your point of difference.

She also urged the lunch guests to make the most of being a woman in a time when many boards are looking to meet targets for women – in particular in Queensland where the State Government has been actively working to meet its 50% target.

Julie is pictured here with WOB Executive Director, Claire Braund, and long-time WOB member and fellow WOBSX participant, Rhyll Gardner.

Interview with Julie Cotter


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