Women on Boards

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.

Closing The Wage Gap

 
A few years ago, my daughter applied for her first job after college. She worked hard on her resume and cover letter, was asked to come in for an interview and landed the job. Bubbling with excitement, she called to tell me the news. After congratulating her, hearing about the meeting and the responsibilities of the job, I asked how much money she'd be making. Sheepishly, she said, "I didn't ask."
 
I couldn't believe it.  With college loans and rent to pay, my daughter needed a paycheck. I asked her why she didn't ask and her answer astounded me. "I thought it was impolite to talk about money," she said.
 
What I hadn't taught her, and what her university failed to teach her, was that it's OK -- even necessary -- to talk about money. It's a problem that many women have.
 
In her book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg tells a story about negotiating her contract at Facebook. She recounts how she was prepared to accept a compensation package that was less than she thought she deserved until her brother-in-law pointedly asked "why would you be willing to make less than any man would make to do the same job?"[1] She went back, re-negotiated with Mark Zuckerberg, and got the package she thought she deserved.
 

What do China, Japan and the US have in Common?

 
Happy International Women's Day. We want to celebrate the occasion by bringing you this news: France has overtaken the United States' lead role in the number of women serving on the boards of Fortune Global 100 companies -- France 25.1%, US 20.9%, according to a Corporate Women Directors International study.
 
If that's not bad enough, the US joins China and Japan in having the lowest rate of women-held board seats among Fortune 200 companies, according to the International Business Times. Gee, China and Japan are not known for their women- friendly policies. That's some strange company we're keeping.
 
It's true that France's leap in women-held board seats is due to government-mandated quotas, but in just two years the number of women directors has doubled and their 2014 targets have already been met.
 
We don't advocate quotas. We think that American companies should do the right thing and diversify their boards on their own. We've even given them a benchmark: 20% or more by 2020. It doesn't seem like a lot to ask.
 
The US might learn a thing or two from Finland, where women now hold 22% of the board seats. They didn't need quotas to get there. Instead, they took the initiative themselves and put into place diversity oversight.
 
We encourage US companies to find and add women to the boards. Qualified women are ready to serve.

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