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Are You On Track to Join a Corporate Board?One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to work with women in leadership is that I believe the bigger we think about ourselves and our leadership path, the more good we can do for our companies and communities.

Corporate board service is one of those ways we can direct our leadership path.

In the US, we have 16% of women serving on global corporate boards, and 2.6% chairing those boards.  Considering that women represent nearly 50% of the workforce in this country, we have some work to do in putting a dent into those numbers. (The numbers in not-for-profit board leadership are much higher, with women making up 43% of those positions.)

It’s a complex topic for sure. Improving our numbers on corporate boards is a blend of culture, access and visibility, skill building, work/life choices, and self-leadership.

The self-leadership and skill-building pieces of that complex puzzle are where we have a lot of individual influence.  It’s about making it a priority on our own career development path and “planting the seeds” of our capabilities both internally and outside of our organizations. These seeds will ultimately present other opportunities, including corporate board service.

At the recent WELD Leadership Conference, Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of The Value Alliance, presented Corporate Board Service 101.  She shared the basics of corporate boards as well as some specific tips on what you can do NOW so that you’ll be at the top of the list of candidates being sought out for future corporate board positions.

What does a corporate board do?  A quick 101 on Corporate Boards: 

A corporate board member has advisory and decision-making responsibilities in regards to some of the most important aspects of a company, including:

  • Hire and fire the CEO
  • Performance review of the CEO
  • Succession planning
  • Financial and risk oversight
  • Compensation planning
  • Mergers & Acquisitions

Additionally, boards are comprised of several committees on which members serve in smaller teams. Those committees may include:

  • Audit & Risk
  • Executive Review, Personnel and Executive Compensation
  • Marketing & Product Development
  • Nominating & Governance

As a board member, you have the responsibility to abide by Corporate Governance Guidelines and the Duty of Loyalty and Care. Board members have a duty be loyal, even in the down times, and they have ultimate care and responsibility to the shareholders.  Click here to see an example of Corporate Governance Guidelines.

Do you have what it takes to sit on a corporate board?

Here are some key characteristics, skills, and considerations you’ll want to evaluate for participating on a corporate board:

Key characteristics:

  • Do you have C-level experience in which you ran a business, or even a division of a corporation?
  • Do you understand and can you demonstrate your experience with revenue, cost, and strategy?
  • Do you know how to ask the right questions? Are you consultative, constructive and respectful by nature?
  • Do you continually honor your commitments?
  • Do you understand legal and fiduciary responsibilities?
  • Do you have technical skills? Do you understand the industry?
  • Do you have a background in technology? Do you understand the critical nature of cyber security in today’s marketplace?
  • When targeting or considering specific boards, does your personality mesh with the other board members? Do you debate in a courteous, respectful way?

Understand your industry, company, and how your company’s board operates:

  • If you work for a public company, be sure you are reading the proxy for your company every year. You can find the proxy at Input your company’s ticker and search for “DEF 14A” You will gain knowledge on how your board operates.
  • Be sure to be reading the proxies of your competitors as well.
  • Read major business and industry publications on a daily basis and know what is going on. Be smart and talk the talk.
  • Attend industry events to gain information. Knowledge is power.


Typically, there are not job postings for corporate board members. Corporate boards, and the executive search firms that serve them, usually have a short list of individuals they are interested in for their boards.

  • Plant the seeds along the way. Be strategic in demonstrating who you are so that when the opportunity comes, you are at the top of their list.
  • Build industry experience and technical knowledge; then know how to talk about it to influential professionals.
  • Attend non-profit events where high-level corporate executives sit on the boards, and get to know them. By reading the business publications, share your knowledge and understanding of the industry and corporation at hand.
  • Be strategic with who you get to know and who you spend your time with.

Risks & Liabilities:

Understand that there are risks and liabilities involved in serving on a corporate board.

  • The current board may be dysfunctional, or you may not mesh with the people that are on the board.
  • You may be involved in lawsuits and depositions that take time and energy to get through.
  • The time commitment may be more than you are willing to provide.

If you believe that serving on a corporate board is in your future, be prepared. Study other corporate boards. Understand what it takes to be on a board of directors, and plant the seeds throughout your career. Some consider it the “ultimate career goal.” Others are looking to play a part in something bigger than their own professional careers. Regardless of your motivation, believe in yourself, be sure that your accomplishments are recognized by the right people, and enjoy the success you will ultimately achieve.

About The Value Alliance

Founded in 1999, The Value Alliance has provided education, information, and advisory services to directors and executives from hundreds of companies. To learn more about their services, visit

Ready to learn more?

Visit for more information about custom training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group.  Amy Franko works with emerging women leaders, teaching concepts from the international best-seller Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office to many national companies and organizations.
© 2012 Impact Instruction Group


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