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Seven tips for women who want to get on boards

Here's a compilation of tips from recruiters and corporate directors for women who want to join corporate boards:

1. Network, network, network: Directors are still typically chosen based on personal recommendations, so get known. But don't despair about not being close friends with everyone in Corporate Canada. Research has found recommendations leading to board appointments come most often from more distant acquaintances and people with "weak ties," rather than close personal friends.

2. Find mentors: Seek mentoring and networking opportunities with senior male executives, especially CEOs and retired CEOs. Networking with other women can offer valuable support and encouragement, but may not give you the right contacts for board appointments.

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3. Volunteer: One way to start being noticed is by volunteering in your community with a non-profit board - but choose carefully. One senior director recommends picking one you feel passionate about, because a key role of directors is to assist with fund-raising. And many people find it's easier to lobby for donations when they really care.

4. Be a leader: Take leadership positions on the non-profit boards you join, or spearhead important initiatives or special projects. Simply sitting on a board may not be enough to impress others or make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Target Crown corporations: Public companies want directors with prior board experience, and first-timers are increasingly getting it from Crown corporation boards. Their size, complexity and (in some cases) business-orientation help make you a safer bet for those considering appointing you to a corporate board for the first time.

6. Promote yourself: Make sure people know you're interested in joining boards, and communicate your strengths. Confidence sells. Board members say only a lucky few can expect to be courted for boards without making an effort to seek the positions.

7. Focus on your career choices: First and foremost, your work experience will qualify you for a corporate board. Recruiters say they are often contacted by people who are not ready yet or qualified for public company board appointments. Many companies want people with significant executive experience, preferably running companies or major divisions. Other popular criteria for director searches include specific industry experience, accounting expertise or international experience (especially in Asian markets). Although some anticipate emerging hot areas like executive compensation and information technology will grow in popularity in director searches, those niche areas are so far less often cited.

Find out who came out on top in our breakdown of board composition, compensation, shareholder rights and disclosure

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More


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