Ask a Board Recruiter: How Can Women Join Corporate Boards?

Guest Contributor Angie Salmon

Angie Salmon is Senior Vice President for EFL Associates, an Executive Search Firm. Her ability to identify the right talent makes her a sought-after Executive and Board Recruiter. She is also a member of a team of senior HR professionals that is working to increase the number of women on Boards of Directors and in Executive Positions in Kansas City.

An increasing body of research suggests that companies where women are more strongly represented at the board and senior management level are also the companies that perform best.

Several public and large private companies are seeking to increase the gender and cultural diversity in their board room based on this evidence and the belief that, in addition to the value diversity adds to corporate governance, it is the right thing to do.

So what are companies looking for when a board seat comes open, and how do female executives prepare themselves for a seat on a board of directors? Most of our public clients find the following traits and experience attractive in potential board members:

  • C-level corporate experience (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO), particularly current or previous roles as a CEO.
  • Leadership experience within a public company.
  • Prior public company board service.
  • Strong financial acumen — particularly individuals who would qualify as a financial expert and could chair the audit committee (CFO experience, CPA background, etc.).
  • Experience in the company’s industry.

Angie Salmon advises women on how to join Corporate Boards.If an individual possesses most of the qualities above and is also female, it is likely that she is being considered for public board positions — often without her knowledge. Although experience at the executive level is often the best foundation for board service, several additional steps can be taken to effectively position yourself as a board member:

  1. Consider joining a board. Most corporate organizations prefer some sort of board experience, so seek one out to join — such as a nonprofit board of directors, such as a hospital/health system, or even a smaller private company board. This will provide you with valuable experience regarding governance, committee structures, and the time-commitment necessary to effectively serve as a board member.
  2. Commit to your board. Seek out leadership positions by chairing committees and actively participating.  Again, it is the right thing to do, and chances are that many of your fellow board members are also sitting on public company boards.
  3. Attend National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) meetings or other board-education venues. The information is valuable to current and future board members, and it provides a venue for networking with sitting board members.
  4. Ensure you can be found by boards. Many cities have initiatives to increase gender diversity on boards and in corporate leadership positions, such as Win/Win in Kansas City and The Chicago Network. Make sure you are included as a board candidate in such databases, and take advantage of the opportunities provided by these types of groups.

Recently, EFL Associates handled a board search that resulted in Karen S. Evans joining the Board of Directors of NIC, Inc. (NASDAQ: EGOV). Harry Herington, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of NIC said, “Karen’s extensive experience in the federal IT sector and the Governor Henry’s proven record of leading bipartisan achievement will lend themselves well to NIC’s ongoing focus on state, federal, and other government-related opportunities.”

To learn more about The Way Women Work’s Guest Contributor, Angie Salmon:


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