Getting Board Ready as a Trustee


Heidi Smith has recently been appointed to a Board of Trustees.  This post describes her experience and some tips in terms of getting Board Ready.

  1. Commit to a timescale

In the middle of last summer, I had a New Year’s Resolution moment.  Enough talking about this Board thing already. Let’s get this done. 

One of my skills is project management and I thought a project approach would be helpful.  I was late to the Board party on this point, because Women on Boards have already worked this all out and can help with each step of the way – it’s basically a roadmap.

In the summer, I initiated Project Board, the intended outcome of which was to be on a Board by Christmas. It was a stretch target, given that WOB’s experience suggests two years is a realistic timeframe. But I had been farting around for four years already, so really there was no excuse not to get on with it.  Committing to a timescale really helped as it gave me focus.


  1. Submit to the Process
I’m an entrepreneur. This is a summary of my way of doing things:
  1. Prototype and Test
  2. Ditch or Launch

Don’t do this when you are applying for your first board position. It doesn’t work.
Women on Boards knows how to get you onto a Board because they have been doing it for almost a decade. They can’t guarantee you a Board position; that is largely dependent on the skillset of those already on the Board for which you are applying. But there is a tested process and if you follow it, it works.

Between July 2017 and March 2018 when I was appointed, I attended the Getting Started workshop, two Boardroom Insights events and Stephanie’s Impact and Influence Masterclass. Then I wrote a CV and completely rewrote it after a power half-hour Board CV review with Julie.  I approached the Co-Chair of a Board I wanted to join, prepared for several interviews using WOB’s online resources, completed the financial literacy webinar, sought 1-on-1 interview advice from Rowena, and articulated my value in terms of strategy, finance and risk to the other Board Members. And that’s it. I was appointed.  


  1. Get over the fear
I used to have lots of conversations about being on a Board. I expressed aloud the injustice of women representation and experienced a kind of silent indignation that one hadn’t already fallen into my lap.  Four years after having signed up to Women on Boards, I still wasn’t on a Board, the reason being that I hadn’t actually done anything myself to make it happen. 

Now I attribute this lack of action to my own fear. That is, the fear of being found out.  Fear of not having anything concrete to contribute. Fear of being shouted down.

I see now that all these fears were rooted in the composition of the imaginary board I had created in my mind.  These imaginary Board Members were more experienced, better qualified, and more suited than me in every conceivable way. But I was completely missing the point. To get onto a Board, you don’t need to be better. You need to be different. Being the same is not what it’s about.
Thank you Women on Boards for sharing your insight, experience and support.
Heidi Smith was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Pushkin House in the role of Treasurer in March 2018.

Do you want to join Heidi and over 1500 other women we have supported onto boards? Time to Get Started. 

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