With so much focus nowadays on improving the gender balance on boards, it’s important to understand the benefits a board appointment can bring to your career and business.
There are several major reasons why being a director will benefit your career.
- Joining a not-for-profit board indicates to management or your clients that you are interested and engaged in your community at a leadership level.
- A directorship might be the one thing on your curriculum vitae that makes you stand out when applying for a new role.
- You build market and industry knowledge and networks through exposure to a diverse range of issues from the perspective of a director. It may be where your next client or job comes from.
- It builds your capacity to develop career and leadership skills that you may not be able to develop in your day-to-day job.
- If you need to take a career break at any stage, a directorship can give you continuity on your CV.
- Directorships improve career resilience and provide strategic understanding of workforce dynamics.
- It gives you the chance to explore the idea of a post-executive board career.
Women on board
Having a woman in the boardroom makes good business sense for the organisation, too. Research tells us that the dynamics of the discussion in the boardroom and the quality of decision making when women are present is different. The range of issues canvassed increases and includes usefully different perspectives from female board members.
Boards with women are also more likely to be best practice in terms of board evaluations, codes of conduct, conflict of interest guidelines and looking more closely at executive remuneration arrangements.
Finding a board appointment that suits your interests, skills and geography takes patience, determination and effort. You need to make a plan and stick to it – you can’t just sit around waiting for opportunities to present themselves to you. With women being a minority when it comes to board positions, it is up to you to take control of your professional future and make sure that you are progressing wisely down new people the right path towards your goals. It is important to step away from the day-to-day grind of work and spend quality time reflecting on your board aspirations and developing plans for your future.
Take time to write a board CV and make your aspirations known to those in your personal and professional network. It’s important to be clear on the type of role you are looking for and what skills and networks you are able to bring to the table. You need to view strategic networking for yourself as a key component of your board journey. It is a great way to meet new people, find out about organisations, build your contacts and create a name for yourself.
You should also think about a group of people who may be able to help you achieve your goals. Make a list of six people of influence, make contact and keep in touch with them.
Join an organisation that specialises in helping people achieve their board ambitions. These organisations often list board vacancies, so be sure to scan them frequently and apply for roles. Be strategic in your networking and professional development. If you can see a need on a board, build a business case to fill that need – with yourself.
If you have little or no board experience, look at smaller not-for-profits or industry and professional association committees, and government bodies that select by professional expertise. If you have some experience, there are many smaller companies, including ASX-listed, that are SMEs whose boards value having directors that are successful SME operators, because they understand the challenges of a smaller company. There’s a board position waiting for you...
About Claire Braund
Claire Braund is the executive director of Women on Boards, which she co-founded in 2006 following a career in journalism and public relations. A highly respected speaker on gender diversity and related business issues, Claire is a strong advocate for gender targets within organisations to bring a more balanced perspective to discussions and decision making.