How to Get on a Corporate Board

To get on a corporate board you must be qualified and be known. CEOs and board nominating committees look for board candidates with specific skill sets who are at the height of their careers. They also consider board dynamics, making sure that board members will work well together. For this reason, it’s not unusual that CEOs and nominating chairs turn to people they know and trust to fill an open board seat. Qualified women are often less well known than their male couterparts, so they are not considered for selection. In some companies the criteria is so narrowly defined that few women qualify.

If you feel you are qualified to serve on a board or wish to join a board in the future, there are things you can do to advance your candidacy.

  1. Expand your network.

    A personal connection is one of the most important ways to facilitate a board position. Use your network to meet CEOs and senior executives in your field and let them know of your interest. Ask them to introduce you to other senior executives, board members, and professional recruiters. Participate in trade and professional associations and volunteer for the boards of nonprofit and civic organizations. Join organizations, such as those listed as our affiliate organizations. Some of these organizations recruit women to sit on boards.
  2. Participate in a board training program.

    Board training programs won’t qualify you for board membership, but they can provide valuable information on how to position your candidacy. Curriculum topics include board readiness, networking tips, how to brand your skill sets, board governance, and how to read a financial report. Ask for references from past participants and inquire about how many past participants have been elected to a board seat.
  3. Enhance your professional profile.

    Become a self-promoter. Speak at professional meetings. Offer yourself as a subject matter expert to editors in the business and trade press. People who conduct board searches often look at newspapers and magazines to see who is being quoted and written about.
  4. Start local.

    Serving on the boards of nonprofits, startups, industry, or trade associations is good training. These experiences will allow you to learn about board governance, strategic planning, marketing, finance, operations, and budgets. It is also a good way to get known as someone who can add value to a board.
  5. Stay involved with 2020 Women on Boards.

    We will be showcasing opportunities for women to increase their visibility through our affiliate organizations and sponsors. Check back often to learn about activities going on around the country. Also, look at our Board Search page for resources including executive search firms and nonprofit organizations that help with board searches.