How to secure your first board role

board of directors

Thinking about the impact you can make on a board? We are too! As women, we bring a wealth of fresh perspectives, empathy, and a drive for effective decision-making. Our diverse skills and experiences fuel our motivation to champion inclusive and sustainable practices, ensuring better business outcomes.

A Board of Directors play an important role in steering the ship of an organisation, helping to set its overall direction – and keeping a close eye on its progress. As the guardians of purpose and values, they also shoulder the responsibility when sh&% hits the fan. 

It’s not a move to take lightly, but we’d love it if you considered it! The best boards are diverse, but globally, women only make up 20% of them. 👎 (A number we’re committed to changing at Powrsuit!).

Unsure of where to start? In Powrsuit fashion, we share three actionable ways to get your foot in the boardroom door.

Build your value 

Do you know the value you bring to the boardroom table? Don’t stress if you’re not a seasoned general manager or don’t have C-suite experience. But (there’s a bit of a but). Successful board candidates can show off their leadership skills by pointing to managing teams, projects, or products. 

According to the incredible Lisa Nelson, ownership or leadership experience signals that you’ve faced tough tradeoffs and mastered strategic thinking about growth and risk. Companies crave a board of directors who’ve been there, done that – women who can offer guidance and “see around corners.”

Skills you might want to develop include:

Financial: Don’t worry; you don’t need to be a CFO or an accounting wizard. Just be able to interpret financials and understand what’s going well and not so well. Can you own more financial aspects in your current role? (btw ditch that self-limiting belief, you are good with numbers)

Strategic thinking: Get comfortable with how your organisation creates value and its competitive advantage. Be observant across the news and industry events to spot key trends and hone your ‘big picture thinking’.

If you’re still navigating the career ladder, there’s no better time to perfect those ‘strategic yeses’. Each ‘best’ decision you make for yourself can get you one step closer to your leadership (and boardroom) goals.

Learn the basics

Thanks to Kelly McGregor and Cassie McAdams for sharing your insights on how to grasp the basics by:

Taking a course: Learning the theory and practice of governance is useful because it flexes different leadership skills. Programmes can be pricey, so consider the more budget-friendly specialised or online modules to learn the basics. (you too, Australian and US Powrsuiters!)

Learning by doing: Picture yourself in an ‘observer role,’ aka a director in training. It’s a growing trend, and observers find themselves more successful when they later apply for board positions. So, programmes like Onboard, Future Directors Programme, and Observership in Australia are worth considering.

You can also check out our Powrup ep, where we chat about what exactly a board of directors does and key things to keep in mind!

Networking your way to the boardroom

Networking can strike fear into the hearts of even the most extroverted among us. Trust us; it’s intimidating and awkward for everyone. We often overlook this critical skill because, let’s face it, we slip into our comfort zone of signing up for more courses (thanks for this insight Rita Scroggin from First Board). 

Start by saying yes to smaller, more intimate events like breakfast talks, book launches, meetups, or events at your local Institute of Directors chapter. And who says you can’t have a sidekick? Grab a fellow introvert to tag along. 

We’re going to guess that your network doesn’t know you’re interested in a board role or that you’d like to learn more. So tell everyone! Your network can champion your goals (and it’s how Kristen scored her first board role).

Scroll your Linkedin network for connections that sit on a board and invite them to a quick Zoom chat. Use our template to DM people you’re interested in meeting or who might open their networks. A little research goes a long way, do your homework and prep some questions: ask about their board experiences, how they landed their first role, and where they think you should start.

30 second action:

In conversations this week, whip out your elevator pitch and let your interest in a directorship be known!

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