board seat

Women and Finance: Roadblock to a board seat? Maybe not so much.

 
We often hear that women need to step up their understanding of finance to land a seat on a corporate board. But, according to the study "Financial Literacy Around the World: An Overview", published in 2011, women seem to know as much as men when it comes to matters of finance. What they often lack is a command of the language of finance, which would make it easier for them to join the conversation in the boardroom.
 
According to the study's author, Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington University, women were less likely to answer questions correctly when financial jargon was used, but that didn't necessarily mean that the women were more ignorant. Women relied on the "do not know" option far more often than their male counterparts. But when the "do not know" option was eliminated, women were no more likely to pick a wrong answer than men. Said Lusardi, when "forced to pick an answer, women seemed to know as much as men."
 
This finding supports the notion that women are more cautious and more risk averse. "Women," said Dr. Lusardi, "are aware of their lack of knowledge while men are less willing to admit what they don't know." Cultural stereotypes add to the pressure men feel that they must be financial experts and have convinced women that they know less than they actually do.
 
Formal education hasn't kept pace with the complexities of modern investing, notes Meg Thakor of MoneyZen Wealth Management. Men and women are confused, but women may be more willing to ask for information.
 

Strategies to Landing a Board Seat: Sponsorship

 
At our "15 Minutes @ Noon" Twitter Chat this month, Patricia Lenkov, President and Executive Recruiter with Agility Executive Search, LLC, shared her thoughts about sponsorship, as part of a multi-faceted strategy to landing a board seat.
 
According to Lenkov, sponsors can provide valuable advice and support to those advancing in their careers. Citing a Catalyst study, she said that sponsors could propel a protégé to the top of a list of candidates or eliminate the list itself. They can provide advice on how to get on a board and perhaps even more importantly, make relevant introductions.
 
When asked about what qualities to look for in a sponsor, Lenkov said that the best sponsors are knowledgeable and experienced in and about the boardroom. Ideally, they will have sat on a board or two. But, she acknowledged, boardroom experience is only part of what makes a good sponsor. They also need to be willing to engage in the relationship and make the time to be helpful.
 
Does a sponsor need to be a CEO? No, says Lenkov, but engaging with a senior and experienced executive is important to achieve your objectives. "The best sponsors have a seat at the decision table," she said. "The ideal and most committed sponsors come from your own network."
 
Lenkov also points out that a protégé must give as well as receive. Sponsors want to work with people whom they respect. You can make their job easier and rewarding by being the best you can be in your career. Successful protégés recognize that the relationship must be earned -- not just once, but continually.

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