A partner at KPMG, the sponsor of our Leading By Example award, shares her advice for landing a board director role.
By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)
The countdown is on! In just over 48 hours, we’ll be celebrating innovation at the sold-out Women 2.0 Awards. On Feb. 12 at Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco, we’ll honor individuals and companies for their talent, leadership and achievements in the tech industry.
We wouldn’t be able to honor these amazing founders, innovators and investors without the support of our sponsors. One sponsor we’d like to thank is audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, who is sponsoring our Leading by Example Award.
KPMG is the perfect fit for this award, especially with the recent release of Women on Board, a book written by KPMG Partner Nancy Calderon and WomenCorporateDirectors CEO, co-founder and co-chair Susan Stautberg.
Over the past several years, these leading women have noticed a shift: More women are eying the board of directors than ever before. What’s more, their male mentors and colleagues want to support their path to these roles.
Yet while the old boys club board of directors may be on its way out, Nancy and Susan had long been fielding a lot of questions from women about landing these roles. Women sought their advice on what they should do now to ensure they will be ready to step up to the board of directors later.
So the two decided to share what they knew more widely to help more women who were interested in board positions. Nancy and Susan interviewed dozens of chairmen, CEOs, search executives, succession experts and other directors, and compiled their research, best practices and lessons learned in Women on Board, a book that was just released in December 2014.
We asked them both to share a few highlights and insights from their work.
What can you do to be considered a good board candidate?
Nancy Calderon and Susan Stautberg: Boards need directors who have both expertise and skill as emphatic leaders and who understand the need for courage, candor, diversity and cohesion in the board room. In addition to these skills, women executives need core competencies, such as financial expertise and to be seen as a leader in their industry. In an ever-changing marketplace, knowledge of digital technologies, social media, and cyber security are more important than ever, as is experience in emerging markets, global branding and supply chain management.
What can you do now to influence your ability to get on a board down the line?
Nancy and Susan: Even if you do not see yourself on a board in the near term, there are many things you can do to influence your ability to serve on one in the future. Ask for assignments such as managing a part of the company that’s tied to a P&L for the company or leading a global initiative. Taking on these projects will strengthen your board appeal and provide you with new insights along the way. Equally important is simply letting people know that you are interested in board service. By utilizing your personal network, you can engage multiple individuals who have the ability to assist you with your goals.
You should also consider participating in governance training sessions which will increase your understanding of the issues boards face, as well as the roles and responsibilities of corporate board members. (KPMG offers Audit Committee Institute Roundtables twice per year in various locations nationwide, and also offers webcast series on numerous financial and governance related topics throughput the year.) Finally, developing a board resume and working with executive search firms will help you gain greater visibility when board opportunities arise.
How can you help make a board visionary?
Nancy and Susan: By focusing less on historical issues and more on emphasizing strategy, culture, and values, boards can become more visionary. Creating new board committees such as innovation, corporate social responsibility and risks will help boards take on the 21st century. It is also key that Nominating Committees understand the importance and value of a diverse board and seek director slates that feature diverse candidates.
Leadership is ultimately about the ability to navigate change – and change is what opens the door not only to risks but opportunity. Women On Board provides relevant and useful advice on how to accelerate corporate governance globally.