This past week I had the opportunity to not only attend the MA Conference for Women, but also to participate in a leadership panel about women and corporate board positions. My role on the panel was to speak about how women can promote themselves and increase their credibility and visibility so they can get a board appointment. It was a wonderful experience and I was pleasantly surprised how many women attended the panel discussion and had a keen interest in serving on either a non-profit or corporate board.
I sure that most of us are aware of the current studies that prove that having a diverse board (at least 30% women representation) contributes directly to a company’s performance. In fact, companies with more female representation, outperform companies don’t have women. This is critically important for companies to understand and implement, especially companies that wish to improve their bottom line (and who wouldn’t be interested in that?).
So what’s in it for women to serve on boards, non-profit or corporate?
There are many advantages. Board experience can offer you:
1. The opportunity to learn and apply new skills that you can add to your portfolio and resume.
2. The opportunity to network and leverage relationships with other board members who can potentially help you advance your career and broaden your influence.
3. The opportunity to give back to your community.
4. The opportunity to further develop and use your expertise.
5. The opportunity to create visibility and credibility around your personal brand.
6. The opportunity to build relationships that will bring you business.
7. The opportunity to be a part of a team that works together toward a common goal.
8. The opportunity to contribute your time and energy to a cause that you are passionate about.
In summary, a seat at the table can help you in your own career efforts. Board positions often help widen your web of influence and acquaint others with your expertise and talent. Other board members can be great connectors or influencers for new job opportunities.
If sitting on a board is one of your goals, it is important to learn how to communicate your value and to network strategically so others know what you can bring to the table. First of all, let people know you want to sit on a board. Once you verbalize your intent, people will connect you to others who can possibly help you achieve this goal. As opportunities surface, evaluate them carefully based on their expectations of your time, financial contribution, and if your skill set is a good match for their needs. Most importantly, evaluate the opportunity based on whether or not this particular board can help you reach your overall career goals. Who are the other board members? Are they potentially good connectors and influencers? Look at the opportunity strategically and focus not only what you can contribute, but what this commitment can do for you.