Being a Female Director

I am a middle manager in a large corporate (under 30; female) and I would like to work towards being appointed as Director on the Board in the future.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should do to achieve this objective?

Hi! Fantastic question -

I noticed you referenced your gender in your job role so I am going to assume like many boards, the representation of women on the board is pretty low.

There are two things you need to do:

1) establish yourself as an authority and change-maker within your organization championing women’s rights

Unless half your organization is female, half the board is female and their is no pay gap, their is work to be done on this matter. Assess the current infrastructure for supporting female executives at the company and see what initiatives are in place to ensure diversity in the upper rungs.

Ask yourself where they are failing and what is the problem with them?

Following this, go ahead and make a comprehensive plan as to how the organization can better support and encourage women. Ideally not all the factors should be initiatives that cost a lot money but rather involve peer support networks for females within the company to have female mentors, invitation of guest speakers to the company to speak on female leadership etc. Present this plan to a decision-maker on the board or as close to it as you can.

Also, identify some competitions your company can enter which identify high performing work environments that treat employees well. Your board will be excited about your proposal internally but if you can bring attention to the accomplishments in supporting women externally as well so that incoming recruits are aware of this part of the firm’s identity, the board will be far more impressed.

2) excel to the highest level in your current role and continue to outperform expectations

At your job you need to smash your job description scope first and foremost. No one is going to care about your amazing projects within the company if you don’t deliver on what you’re hired and paid to do.

Within your job description you should “manage up” as well as “managing down” and taking initiative and risks with your managers. It’s impossible to get to the board level fast by playing the slow, corporate game and being a forwarding mechanism middle manager just passing on direct strategies with little impact. Make sure you’re adding value and actively seeking to improve initiatives. Don’t be crazy and upset to much of the entrenched powers within unnecessarily but choose 1 or 2 battles you think you can win with a lot of effort, data and force that can improve objectives for your company and fight them.

A combination of 1 or 2 transformative break throughs you have championed going above and beyond the call of duty at your company and the social project will go along way.

Finally, SPEAK UP! Make sure you tell your boss you have this career aspiration because although s/he might think your overly ambitious s/he will remember and think about it. If you don’t raise it, s/he will usually assume your content. Only by showing your ambitious, proving your ambitious and making it clear to your seniors what you want over a 5-10 year period with the company, can they consider you properly and pull you under their wing to achieve something like getting on the board down the line.

Some additional suggestions to Jamie’s post.

  • Find a female mentor - ideally within your organisation, but if this isn’t possible it can be someone from outside your organisation.

  • Look at the work that the 30% Club are doing to address the gender gap on Boards The 30% Club have a number of initiatives that will be helpful for you. Examples are their Mentoring and Future Boards Schemes. The 30% Club has chapters in nine countries, so hopefully there is one where you live!