Women On Boards Series: From Program Participant to Board Sponsor

June 26, 2014Last month we introduced you to Thea Miller, Managing Director of Women On Board®, a Catalyst initiative that promotes the appointment of women to corporate boards in Canada and other global regions by pairing board-ready candidates with board sponsors who help them gain appointments. In her recent blog post, More Women on Boards? I Want to Do That!, Thea described how Women On Board® came about.  

Now we’d like to give you an inside look at how a Women On Board® partnership really works. Over the next year or so, we’ll follow prospective board member Sandra Stuart and her board sponsor Sarah E. Raiss, giving you a unique perspective on what it takes to get appointed to a board.

First up: A message from board sponsor, Sarah Raiss. She tells of her experience as a participant in the Women On Board® program, and how she came to be a board sponsor to Sandra Stuart. 

Meet: Sarah E. Raiss, Chair, Alberta Electric System Operator; Director, Loblaw, Canadian Oil Sands, Commercial Metals (US), Vermillion Energy—and now a Women On Board® sponsor.

How I got involved with Women On Board®: I was part of the inaugural group of women participants in Canada’s Women On Board® program in 2007. I had been on large nonprofit boards, Crown corporation boards, industry advisory boards, and even a small publicly traded board for about 13 years.  But I also wanted to be on larger publicly traded boards. I had taken the Institute of Corporate Directors’ Directors’ Education Program (DEP) and had additional exposure to TransCanada’s top-notch board while I was an EVP there.  

My Board Sponsor:  Women On Board® paired me with Robert Harding, then the Chair of Brookfield Asset Management. Bob and I had similar backgrounds and interests and hit it off immediately.  He was a perfect fit, given my experience with infrastructure (telecom, pipelines, etc.) and could help me become better known in the eastern part of Canada.

Getting On Board: Bob gave me great advice on how to target boards—and suggested companies that would best suit the skills I brought to the table. We had very interesting discussions about governance. He connected me with a variety of influential people, invited me to important events, and put his “stamp of approval” on me as a prospective board member. One of the people he introduced me to suggested I consider being on retail boards. This prepared me well as the Shoppers Drug Mart board opportunity came my way shortly thereafter. This was my first large publicly traded board. It paved the way for other large board opportunities to come.

Paying It Forward: Now as a board sponsor myself in the Women On Board® initiative, I look forward to helping other women get on corporate boards. I am paired with Sandra Stuart and she is absolutely terrific—an easy participant to put my “stamp of approval” on.  Women On Board® paired Sandra and me because we have similar personalities and outlooks on life in general. And it turns out we are a great fit. The variety of board and committee experience I’ve had was also considered, since Sandra has been exposed to a diverse set of portfolios within HSBC and has such a broad range of skills to offer as a corporate director. Stay tuned for next month, when Sandra will describe our first meeting and the goals we set together!  

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.