Steps for Women to Join a Board of Directors: Step 1 of 8

join a board of directors

You may want to join a board of directors at a publicly or privately-held company. Here is the first of eight steps you can take to go from idea to action.

The growing media coverage of women sitting on boards of directors in the United States and in Europe has amplified the conversation about how to achieve a board seat. Although gender is not typically a primary criterion for a board seat, like PRiME blogger, Victoria Tomlinson, I also believe there is more that women can do to help themselves.

What do you bring to the table?

You need to add value when you join a board of directors. The strength you contribute to a board is the job you have and the positions you’ve held in the past ten years or more. Identify the expertise you have that would be important to a CEO. Demonstrating expertise and competency in a specific area(s) and industry will be important as you are considered for board positions.

Typically, a board search will look for executives with line management experience, seated or former CEOs, COOs and CFOs. The criteria for a board member are usually specific, with requirements that help the board round out its skill and experience matrix. Look at the website of a public company under Investor Relations and Governance or Board of Directors. Note the age and experience profile of the individuals who are on the board.

Your work as a CEO or with CEOs is valuable to your work on a board. You know how to communicate with a CEO. You understand their strategic decision-making and leadership role in the company and marketplace. You may have spent time in the boardroom and have seen them in action with board members. You have a feel for board dynamics. You understand the role of the board relative to its CEO.

What Makes You So Special? As Karyl Innis says,You have to have sought-after experience.

Consider your answers to the following questions

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is different about you?
  3. What are your strengths?
  4. What makes you unique and highly differentiated from other candidates?
  5. Why are you a good fit to this company?
  6. Why would this company’s shareholders want to vote for you on the upcoming proxy?

Be prepared to discuss your strengths and attributes. The experiences most relevant to a board interview are those that reflect the decisions a board might make:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions of companies
  • Real Estate Acquisitions or Sales
  • Approving Strategic Plans / Changing Strategic Direction
  • Consummating Large Deals
  • Spin Ins / Spin Outs
  • Hiring and Firing Executives
  • Start-up and Business Growth Experiences
  • Turn-a-rounds
  • Leadership and Leadership Development

We’ll explore Step 2 to Join a Board of Directors next month.


To purchase the Eight Steps workbook for a small fee, see Julie’s website.