Katie CouricYahoo Global News Anchor
Want More Women on Boards? Make Them Easier to Find.
May 13, 2016 • 3609 Likes • 128 Comments
From journalists and filmmakers, to doctors and executives, I’m always impressed by the work my friends do. And if you don’t already know Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, you definitely should get to know her – and her job. Not only is she a wife, mother, friend, and tech executive – she’s also a fearless entrepreneur – and one who wants to help find solutions for the challenges in the tech industry. Sukhinder created a solution for one of those challenges (the gender gap in tech) — theBoardlist. I was so curious to learn more about it and had so many questions – I had to get answers.
Why did you start theBoardlist?
I founded theBoardlist because I was tired of all the negative commentary on women in tech, and even more so by the lack of solutions being offered. I believe that more participation of women at every level in tech, and other industries in general, is going to improve business performance. That includes the board room.
What are the statistics? Why are so few women on boards?
The biggest issue we see is familiarity. Based on research together with our partners, we estimate that 75%+ of private company boards do not have a female board member in the tech industry. In a more recent research, only 50% of founders and CEOS believe there are enough qualified female board candidates, while 80% believed there were enough qualified male board candidates.
We think the key issue is discovery. More specifically -– the lack of familiarity CEOs may have to a wide enough network of highly qualified female candidates who can serve as board members. When we ask CEOs and founders, they tell us that they use investor and their own networks to source board candidates. If these networks themselves aren’t diverse, that can exacerbate the issue. CEOs tell us that the time to source and ability to connect with qualified candidates are their biggest hurdles to filling independent board seats with women.
I know you said the same names get recycled over and over again, why is that?
The networks many CEOs and founders are using today are simply too narrow. For many very fair reasons, primarily time and resources, leaders tend to go to their own personal networks or investors’ networks for board candidates. If those networks only include women who are already serving on boards with them, then those women are already time constrained. If existing board members and or/investors are themselves mostly male, their own networks may be less diverse also.
We need to enable trusted discovery of the broader pool of highly talented women leaders for board roles.
What is the advantage of being on a board?
Board service offers the opportunity for you as a leader to bring your operating experience into a new environment and apply that experience as strategic counsel for the company you are serving. It’s rewarding, professionally challenging and helps make you also more effective in your day jobs. As a board member, you can really hone your skills around communicating, influencing, managing risk and decision-making. It’s also a great chance to learn new industries, customer segments and product/service offerings, which can help grow your own perspective as a leader overall.
Can more diversity in a boardroom make a company more diverse? How?
Absolutely. The primary role of a Board is to advise and counsel CEOs and their leadership teams as they grow. A diverse board, in turn, drives a more diverse and broader conversation across all areas related to growth. Board members have a huge influence over important choices their companies make – from recruiting to compensation to M&A – even establishing culture and values. I have also experienced first-hand that the more diverse the board is, the more diverse their networks will be, impacting the value they bring back to the company in terms of talent, connections and resources.
Do corporations seem to be receptive to theBoardlist?
Companies have been extremely receptive to theBoardlist, primarily in two ways. First, larger organizations –like EBay or Marketo – see this as an opportunity to develop their most exceptional talent and we are engaging them in order to grow the “supply” of great women who could be candidates for board service. Second, companies large and small are engaging with us for their own board searches. We have over 80 board searches in progress now and are extremely pleased to see the level of interest and engagement with candidates in theBoardlist community.
At what stage of their career should women start trying to get involved in board lists?
There is not a ‘perfect ‘moment in time. In most cases, when you have accumulated a deep set of skills and experiences as a leader that could be applied to another company’s perspective, then you have something to offer as a board member. I would encourage most women leaders to consider board service at the right point in their professional careers as a way to grow new skills, while contributing strategically to another organization’s growth.
What should people be doing to prepare themselves to get on a board if they aren’t ready yet?
I always recommend that women focus deeply on building their experiences and expertise in their day job. Essentially, they need to focus on being simply the best operator and leader they can be.
It is also important to be able to articulate your “board” superpowers in a resume and if possible, get feedback on it from a leader you know who has been in the boardroom. It is important to talk to others in your network to let them know you are looking for a board opportunity, and take some time to think about what types of companies/industries you can add the most value to, and that you’re interested in serving. Understand the time commitment and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It is fulfilling, but it’s a lot of work to do it well.
Today I see that the most significant thing CEOs are looking for in their board searches – and that is still underrepresented on their boards – is diversity of industry or functional experience. Investors still largely dominate the private boardroom, yet the benefits of diverse experience are recognized and very much sought-after.
How can people nominate someone or get involved in theBoardlist?
We welcome new endorsers, searchers and potential candidates into theBoardlist. Each has a specific role to play in our trusted community. Endorsers are the key to theBoardlist, as they are the leaders who nominate great women leaders for board service in our tool, based on their personal knowledge of these leaders. Board searchers can come to theBoardlist to set up a board search in our system and get introduced to great potential candidates. Of course the incredible women leaders who are nominated to theBoardlist – our candidates – are why we do what we do. If you are interested in joining our community in any of these capacities, you can apply at theBoardlist.com
How does one go about trying to get on a board?
Certainly, theBoardlist is one way to get engaged in a network of board searches, but there are many great recruiters and business leaders who can help kick-start your process. I recommend that leaders look around at their own network, in order to better understand whom they know that might be able to advise and open doors for them in their journey to board service.
What advice would you give women at different stages of their career, to make themselves either board appropriate or eventually board ready?
Again, being the best leader you can be is the most important thing you can do. Gain experience and drive results to the best of your ability. Growing your network, and specifically, a network of people who already serve as board members, and can refer you potential opportunities is also important. They will serve as advisers and sponsors over time.
Katie CouricYahoo Global News Anchor
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Add your comment
Freelance writer and expert critic
“I think having people on a board with real life experience is key to the longevity of any company regardless of gender. My wife has been on a few and has proven very effective and learned some of the internal dynamics of board power plays.”
Like(5)Reply3 days ago
LikersANGELINE ACHARIYA, Sable Campbell, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, +2
Director, ReRisk Pty Ltd
“I weighed in heavily on a similar discussion a couple of weeks ago – a discussion that included commentary around the negative impacts of quotas for diversity. I’ll drop some weight here by summarising.
We all agree that if you don’t have diversity in your business, it’s likely you’re only half the business you could be. That’s a no-brainer. But we start to differ on questions of how to achieve diversity. The 2 key questions are:
1. How do you build a diverse culture if the people within that culture aren’t diverse to begin with? This is where quotas have a role to play. In the same way we learn more from experience than from reading a text book, we need to experience the impact of diversity. Text books just don’t cut it. I’m hopeful quotas won’t be needed long term (evolution should solve this) – but they’re needed to start the evolutionary process.
2. Once you’ve opened the door to diversity, where do you find the diversifiers? This is where tools like the theBoardlist are critical.
Like(3)Reply2 days ago
LikersIbrahim Fagge, Patricia Boyd, and Julie Jenkins