The Journey Toward a Board Appointment: Lessons Learned (Blog Post)December 28, 2015
Over the past two years I’ve had the privilege of participating in the Women On Board® mentorship program, and now the time has come to write my last blog. Participating in the program gave me the opportunity to build a relationship with a very engaged and supportive mentor, meet fellow members, and witness first-hand how perseverance is the key to success in your career.
Here are three takeaways from my experience.
Board appointments aren’t like job applications. The preparation process is very different. It’s essential to rely on the support of your network and to build a profile in the business community to earn a great board seat. Timing is everything. You need to be in the right place in your career to take on that board opportunity when it comes.
Mentors and sponsors are critical. I was lucky enough to have been paired with a mentor through Women On Board®, but it’s important to leverage all your mentoring and sponsoring relationships. Tap into their contacts at executive search firms. With their referrals and endorsements, you will be amazed at how quickly doors open. But you also need to follow up. My mentor, Sarah Raiss, offered to follow up and help me nudge certain people when required. In my experience, most search firms are interested in a collaborative discussion when identifying and screening profiles, so expect a longer timeline than is usual with the do-it-yourself approach.
Let the journeys of other women inspire you to push forward. I am motivated when I see qualified women appointed to great boards. I am proud to serve on the board of HSBC Bank Canada, which achieved gender parity in December 2013. And while I am still looking for a board outside of HSBC that needs my skills and fits my interests, I am pleased by the many positive developments in this space. I suspect like many of us who thought we would never see it, I was absolutely heartened by the recent federal cabinet appointments. While the cabinet may not technically be a “board,” I would suggest they are the single most powerful board in the country. Just take a look at the backgrounds and achievements of any single one of these women!
With women directors accounting for just 20.8% of the board seats at S&P/TSX 60 organizations in Canada, I am buoyed by the implementation of the Ontario Securities Commission’s Comply or Explain rules for gender diversity on corporate boards and in senior leadership. I’m particularly pleased that six provinces and two territories have joined Ontario in this initiative, and hope to see the remaining provinces join soon.
I am also happy to see Catalyst’s involvement in bringing the 30% Club, a global group advocating for more women in senior business roles, to Canada.
The time has never been better for women to be chosen for Board roles. In fact, maybe it’s your time!
The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.
Chief Operating Officer, HSBC Bank Canada
Sandra Stuart was appointed Chief Operating Officer of HSBC Bank Canada in December 2010. As Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Stuart is responsible for Technology, Operations, Procurement, Corporate Real Estate, and Change Delivery Management. She is a member of HSBC Bank Canada’s Board, as well as the Chief Executive Officer of and a member of the Board for HSBC Trust Company (Canada). Ms. Stuart joined HSBC in 1980 and rose through the organization by taking on a variety of roles in Canada and abroad. With over 30 years of experience, she is a seasoned banking professional with a broad range of skills and a proven track record of delivery in both international and domestic capacities. She is active in her community as the National Chair of HSBC’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, a member of UBC’s Sauder School of Business Faculty Advisory Board, and Leadership Chair of the 2012 United Way of the Lower Mainland Executive Cabinet.