Getting Women on the Board Means Getting Companies on Board
By Alje Kamminga
The evidence is overwhelming — corporations with women on their boards do a better job than those with no women members. Studies show that women board members almost always deliver higher returns, tend to be more aggressive, and are loathe to settle for lacklustre performance. They provide diverse viewpoints, bring skills and experience, encourage innovation, and promote excellence.
So how come, one might ask, do women make up only 16.4 per cent of board members on Canada’s largest corporations? And why do nearly a third of Canada’s large corporations still have no women members on their boards?
Deborah Rosati, founder and CEO of Women Get On Board Inc., thinks she knows why. And she’s determined to do something about it.
“Generally, corporations don’t apply terms, limits, or age restrictions to their boards,” says Rosati. “As a result, turnover can be low. And that means many members stay on beyond their best-before date. Also, women don’t have the networks that men do so it can be more difficult for boards to identify suitable women candidates when they are seeking new members.
“And frankly,” she adds, “many, if not most, corporations are simply not looking deep enough.”
Rosati’s organization — Women Get On Board — is working hard to change that. A member-based company, Women Get On Board connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. It approaches the challenge from both sides, identifying and empowering women candidates, then working with corporations to ensure the result is a good fit for both the company and the woman board member.
“Really, it’s about setting both the company and the selected board member up for long-term success,” says Rosati. And success is possible. For example, 32 per cent of the Ottawa Board of Trade’s board of directors are women.
Even though she deals with imbalance every day, Rosati says she is still surprised that Canada’s boardrooms are not more diverse. Nonetheless, she sees some positive changes on the horizon, most notably an increased willingness of progressive board members to increase board diversity. She offers some suggestions — and encouragement — to these agents of change.
These agents of change, she says, would be well advised to consider the following: does your corporation regularly assess your board composition and evaluate its performance, are there term and/or limits for your current board and what is your company doing to ensure there are diverse candidates in the board search process?
“That’s just the beginning,” says Rosati. “We’ll get beyond the beginning when corporations across Canada recognize that everyone benefits when they do all they can to find the right woman with the right experience, knowledge, skill set and personality.”
How to Increase Your Chances of Getting on a Board
Experts agree, to get on a corporate board, women must be more than simply qualified. They must also be known. CEOs and nominating chairs routinely consult people they know and trust to fill a board seat. So if you’re not well known, you’re unlikely to be considered for selection. Still, Deborah Rosati, the CEO of Women Get On Board Inc., and others point out there are a number of things a woman can do to advance her candidacy. Here are five main ones:
- EXPAND YOUR NETWORK Your network should allow you to meet CEOs and senior executives. Expand your network by asking them to introduce you to other senior executives, board members, and professional recruiters.
- CONSIDER A BOARD TRAINING PROGRAM Board training programs can provide valuable information on topics such as board readiness, networking, branding your skill sets, board governance, and reading a financial report.
- ENHANCE YOUR PROFESSIONAL PROFILE People who conduct board searches often look at newspapers and magazines to see who is being quoted and written about. They’ll get to know you better if you offer yourself as a subject matter expert to editors in the business and trade press.
- START SMALL Serving on the boards of non-profits, startups, industry, or trade associations will allow you to acquire valuable knowledge and become better known.
- SEEK KNOWLEDGEABLE SUPPORT Organizations like Women Get On Board Inc. offer a wide range of training and support services, ranging from workshops to empower women to opportunities to increase your profile.
Networking and Business Resources for Women in Ottawa
- BDC bdc.ca
- Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) cawic.ca
- Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women bpwottawa.com
- Elevate International elevateinternational.ca
- Equal Voice equalvoice.ca
- E Women Network ewomennetwork.com
- Famous 5 Ottawa famous5ottawa.ca
- FemCity Ottawa femcityottawa.com
- Network of Black Business and Professional Women nb2pw.org
- Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Ottawa Chapter owit-ottawa.ca
- Ontario Native Women’s Association onwa.ca
- The Ottawa Board of Trade ottawabot.ca
- OWIT owit-ottawa.ca
- Paro Centre paro.ca
- Professional Women’s Network pwncanada.ca
- She Biz she-biz.com
- Women’s Business Network of Ottawa www.womensbusiness network.ca
- Women in Communications and Technology Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter wct-fct.com
- Women Entrepreneurship Strategy ic.gc.ca
- Women Get On Board womengetonboard.ca
- Women’s Infrastructure Network Ottawa Chapter womensinfrastructure.ca
- Women’s Network of Ottawa (WNO) meetup.com
- Women in Leadership Foundation Ottawa Chapter womeninleadership.ca
- World of Women wow-world-of-women.com