Kelleher-Flight is the founder of GDP Consultiing Inc. and author of The Decision Making Model of Governance
You may be thinking that running a board and running a business have nothing in common. As a successful woman, you have what a board needs: time to dedicate to the mandate of the entity, experience focusing your efforts, and networks that can assist a board achieve its goals.
Board work is demanding, but it does offer benefits. You meet new people and learn about new aspects of business. Because you see other organizational dynamics first hand, you have the chance to view business and community challenges from different perspectives.
Board work provides an opportunity to work within a different type of team and to identify new business prospects. Last but not least, your business will benefit when others see you as a good community partner.
What skills do I need
You need a number of skills to be an effective board member. The most helpful include excellent networking, planning, negotiation and presentation skills.
Each board develops policies, evaluates risks, and oversees the financial health of the entity. The board, through its members, is accountable to the owners, represents the views of key stakeholders, resolves conflict, and reports on its achievements.
You may be thinking, “I’ve never developed policies or overseen risks of that type of organization.” That may be true but these skills can be learned. Always remember, you have to start somewhere.
You have to want to leave a positive legacy. Being willing to evaluate your own contributions, as well as those of the full board including the CEO/Executive Director, is essential.
Board members do need specific skills and it is important to ask the right questions upfront to ensure the board you choose is the best fit for you.
Questions to ask
Here are some questions you can use to decide if a particular board is where you should spend your valuable resources.
- Do I believe in the mandate and direction of this organization?
- What type of board am I being asked to sit on: advisory, governance or management?
- What are the specific duties of the board of directors?
- What are my potential liabilities; does this organization fit my risk profile?
- How much time will it require? (Number of meetings per month)
- Am I required to travel to meetings?
- What do the other board members perceive as my strengths and what contribution do they want me to make?
- Would this board ever conflict with my business? How is conflict of interest handled?
- Can I abide by this entity’s code of ethics and standards of behaviour?
- Does this entity have sound policies which direct the work of the board?
Just think historically
In 1970, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended steps that the federal government should take to ensure equal opportunities for women with men in all aspects of Canadian society.
On February 14, 1981, women organized the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution to ensure the rights enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms were “guaranteed equally to male and female persons.”
The 2011 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors Report reported only 14.5% of board seats in corporate Canada are held by women, an increase of just 0.5 percentage points since 2009.
In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead said men are still selected because they have potential and women have to prove themselves before they are chosen.
Don’t wait. You have nothing to prove. You are capable. Seek out board appointments. You are a fast learner. You are an excellent candidate to serve on any board of directors.