Buyer Beware: Sage Advice to Those Considering Their First Board Seat

November 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm 1 comment

Women in the boardroom or the lack thereof is a popular topic of conversation in a variety of business circles. The institution of quota systems to increase the number of women directors has been implemented in Norway with success and a number of other countries are discussing adopting the same policy.

 There still seems to be an enormous gap, however, between those women eager and willing to serve as Board Directors and the actual number that get elected. As a result women are taking action.

Education is one way that women can both better understand the world of corporate governance and arm themselves with the tools and knowledge to both be considered for board seats and actually prevail  once given the opportunity. To this end there exist numerous options and in this regard I recently attended an event hosted by leadershop and business development firm Sharp Upswing called “Women in the Boardroom.”

This company hosts “Women in the Boardroom” events across the country endeavoring to better prepare women for board service. The format is a panel discussion by experienced board members and perhaps someone else with expertise in the governance area. These women tell “their story” and then there is Q&A.

To my enormous surprise the New York City event had approximately 350 audience members. The panelists had experience on public, private as well as non-profit boards. Their presentations were lively, anecdotal and filled with personal recommendations and tips for achieving one’s goal of joining a board.  

The audience appeared to be very engaged and interested in the subject matter. However I believe that given the progress that women still need to make to be better represented in the boardroom a more formal, fact-based and technical type approach would have better served the audience.

In spite of this there is an important and somewhat unexpected message that came across loud and clear and is worth repeating and emphasizing. It is that in spite of their goals and ambition, when it comes to board service women need to heed to the old adage: “buyer beware.”

What this refers to is the fact that it is important not to get so flattered and carried away when asked to serve on a board that one doesn’t do their proper due diligence on the company or organization that is asking. Given the surprising demise and astonishing mismanagement of so many companies, regardless of ones desire to be a board director it is wise to take a step back and thoroughly and meticulously examine the company. This means objective details such as financials and legal issues as well as the more obscure reputation, style and culture of both the company and its key players (including other board members).

This is an important and perhaps to some an imponderable detail as women are trying so hard to enter the boardroom. But this sage advice should be considered (for men too incidentally) because an incorrect or questionable board seat can be a lot worse than no board seat at all.

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Entry filed under: Business, Corporate Governance, Recruiting.

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1 Comment

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