Want to Join a Board? What Aspiring Directors Need to Know - Lean in Canada

“Corporate decision-making benefits from a diversity of opinions and viewpoints, and this initiative encourages companies to consider talented and capable resources that are currently under-utilized. More women, from all backgrounds, should have an opportunity to bring their skills, talents, and perspectives to boards and senior management,” states Howard Wetston, Chair and CEO of the Ontario Securities Commission.

Yet, according to the Canadian Board Diversity Council, only 17.1% of board seats at Canada’s FP500 companies were occupied by women in 2014.

This number is disappointing – especially in light of the fact that there are strong statistics to prove the benefits of having female directors on boards. Catalyst Canada studied board performance, and found that companies with three or more women directors in at least four out of five years significantly outperformed those with sustained low representation. Here are the compelling numbers:

• 84% higher return on sales
• 60% higher return on invested capital
• 46% higher return on equity

Lean In Canada hosted an event to discuss the disparity and provide practical tips on how women can get on boards. The event featured a panel of dynamic, bold and ambitious women who all credit their success to their board experience. Panelists included:

Deborah Rosati, co-founder of Women Get on Board, an accomplished corporate director and entrepreneur who was recognized as one of WXN’s Top 100 Canada’s Most Powerful Women in 2012.
Fariba Anderson, Chief Executive Officer at AcuteNet, which provides software solutions for the Healthcare industry. She has been recognized as one of Canada’s top 100 Women Entrepreneurs.
Lally Rementilla, Vice President at Nulogy Corporation and founder of Coco Capital, an entrepreneurial practice which she started in 2011.

Female directors are a good thing for businesses, and there should be more of us sitting at the table. Here are some helpful tips and considerations before making the move:

1. Do what you love. Find an organization in a field you are passionate about. It will give you purpose and it’s a great way to give back. Being a director is hard work, but if you are volunteering for an organization that is close to your heart, the time and effort invested will be satisfying in itself.

2. Know how to stop before you begin. Why would you devise an exit strategy before you even join a board? Well, being a director is hard work and requires countless hours. The organization will always need your help. You need to make sure you have a clear goal in place, understand from the beginning what mark you want to make on the organization, and know when you should stop or move on.

3. Do your homework. Make sure you conduct thorough due diligence of the organization before joining a board, especially as it pertains to financial liability (your fiduciary duty as a director). You can mitigate your risk by volunteering for more established organizations who have built their reputation.

4. Nose in, fingers out. Understand your role as a board member. A board role is distinct from a managerial role. As a board member, you don’t make decisions on the operations of the organization. Instead, you provide direction and guidance.

5. Know thyself. Understand your strengths and value proposition before looking for a board role. Don’t sell yourself short when looking for opportunities. Make sure you have a good grasp of who you are and what you can contribute to the organization.

According to all three panelists, being a board member is gratifying work, helps strengthen your network and positions you for success. Start seriously thinking about your future as a board member and build a plan to help you get there. Every perspective, viewpoint or background deserves a seat at the table.

About the author: Mishka Alarcon is a B2B marketing professional and blogger. She enjoys writing about entrepreneurship, business, travel and fitness.

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