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!
Read the whole Canadian Women Get on Board Series: