Earning spots on corporate boards takes not only expertise but the ability to navigate corporate politics in a way that positions you perfectly. For the eighth year, I co-hosted alongside Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, the 2020 Women on Boards Luncheon in Los Angeles and asked our esteemed speakers what you should avoid doing to get that coveted spot — their answers are spot on.
Don’t approach it as if you’re looking for a job and think you’re going to go in and be the resident expert in whatever your field is because there’s a management team that does that day after day after day. The board meets five maybe six times a year. You are not there to run the marketing department, the tech department or any of those. You’re there to be a resource so don’t fall into that trap. – Bonnie Hill, Ed.D., Board Member, Banc of California and The RAND Corporation
Don’t commit a crime. Don’t do things that disqualify you from even being considered for boards in the first place. There are plenty of examples of in the past of people who had shady backgrounds but were given board positions through their connections with management. Those days are gone. Being considered for a board position today will revolve a lot around your ability to prove your integrity, trustworthiness, and your desire to be a passionate supporter of what that company is about and help guide the management team to success. – Jeff Sakaguchi, Board Member, True Blue Inc.
Being asked to be on a board is a lot about chemistry, and being perceived as adding value. If you’re trying to get on a board, think carefully about your approach, that you’re the type of person someone might enjoy working with, and that you are thoughtful. If you are coming onto a board to effect change, you should think very carefully about how you position that before you begin the conversation. It’s better to get on the board and effect change in a selective way. A board is a small group of peers, and people generally want to work with those who will be collaborative and contribute toward a common goal of shareholder value creation. You can be objective and you can bring up criticism but you have to pick your spots and find a way to be somebody who is constructive in the boardroom. – Wendy Webb, Board Member, ABM and Wynn Resorts
Don’t do this because you think it’s good for your resume, it’s cool to go to those dinners or whatever it is you think directors do. You have to recognize that being a director in the US and most developed economies is a big responsibility. It carries real liability, accountability. Don’t take it lightly. Do your homework, show up having read the material. PowerPoints in the boardroom, we discuss issues because we’ve already read the PowerPoints. Don’t take it lightly, don’t think it’s just a fun thing or a glamour thing. It’s a real job, it’s a real responsibility — it’s a responsibility to shareholders but the discussion has progressed to the broader purpose of the corporation. Yes, we serve but we do so by serving both our communities and our stakeholders. – Pedro Pizarro, President and CEO, Edison International and Caltech Board of Trustees
During your networking — Don’t ever say, I’m looking to be on a “paid board”. Some women say they are tired of serving on non-profit boards because I’m paying them with my annual contributions to serve. Don’t say that because business people will think you’re naive, and that you are just in it for the money. What you should say is that you want to serve on public company boards to help the business perform even better, to expand your business contacts and bring back best practices to the company where you work. You are just looking to make money. You don’t have to say it, savvy business people already know that corporate boards compensate their directors. – Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO, 2020 Women on Boards and Berkhemer Clayton Retained Executive Search
Don’t ever say, do I really have to read all of the materials? Or, can’t my assistant read this and summarize it for me? You have to do the work and make a real impact on the boards you serve. – Renee Fraser, Ph.D., CEO, Fraser Communications and Board Member: Red Cross, Girls Inc., 2020 Women on Boards, NAWBO-LA, and WISE & Healthy Aging
Thank you to everyone who joined us this year. For a full gallery of photos provided by Melissa Kobe please click here.
ABOUT 2020 WOMEN ON BOARDS
2020 Women on Boards (2020WOB) is a global education and advocacy campaign committed to building public awareness and momentum toward increasing the numbers of women directors on corporate boards. 2020WOB’s “Gender Diversity Directory” is searchable by state, industry, company name, size, and number of women on every individual company board in the Russell 3000.