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12 Pieces of Expert Advice For Women Who Want to Join Corporate Boards

“What we are looking for is to change the culture of corporate America, and you are the badasses to do it.”

That quote came straight from Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) as she stepped on stage to accept the Disruptor Award at the 2nd Annual How Women Lead In the Boardroom event on Oct. 18 at the Juniper Networks Aspiration Dome in Sunnyvale, Calif.

How Women Lead was thrilled to honor Senator Jackson, author of the historic Senate Bill 826, passed in fall 2018 mandating California public companies put women in board seats. Jackson’s comments were among the highlights of the breakfast event, which featured a multitude of incredible speakers on the topic of putting more women on corporate boards.

Some important statistics:

  • We are living at the first time in history where every company on the S&P 500 has a woman on its board (a welcome increase from 2012, when only one in eight boards included a woman).

  • Research shows that when women are on a board, companies perform 26 percent better.

  • 46% of new Russell 3000 directors in the first half of 2019 were women, up from 17% in 2017.

  • Thanks to the passing of SB826, public companies in California are now required to have women on their boards.

During the Lightning Talks section of the event, three speakers got on stage to give their advice.

Here’s a taste of some of the wisdom they shared:

Mercedes De Luca, CIO, Pebble Beach Resorts; Board Director, PSFWeb, Inc.

For women who want to snag a board seat:

  1. Show up with confidence.“That means thinking confidently,” said Mercedes. “Right here, today, think about being confident. It will change how you show up.”

  2. Ask questions of the women who came before you. “Prepare questions for them and follow their advice,” she added.

  3. Be ready to pay it forward.

  4. Be ready with recommendations. “Find out who will be retiring or leaving soon, and make sure to introduce new female candidates when the time is right,” she said.

Merline Saintil, COO, R&D and IT, Change Healthcare; Board Director, Banner Bank

For women who are new to a board:

  1. Seek regular feedback.

  2. Identify your source of power.

  3. Find your voice. “As you climb the corporate ladder,” she said, “please remember to send the elevator back down.”

  4. Bring other women with you. “Oftentimes, finding your voice in the boardroom means going beyond the skill set on your resume,” Merline said. “We all have a variety of skills that we don’t often talk about.”

Amy Wilkinson, CEO & Founder, Ingenuity Corp.

On the topic of the importance of women on boards:

  1. Diversity is an imperative. “Diversity has never been more needed in the boardroom as it is today,” said Amy. “Boards have to be able to manage change.”

  2. Diversity makes everyone better. “A Columbia study says that when an outsider comes into a group of like-minded people, problem solving goes up 77 percent,” she said.

  3. Look for allies. “There are allies everywhere you look,” she said.

  4. Use your voice. “It is about getting a seat at the table, but more than that it is about getting a voice at the table,” Amy said.

This is just a small snippet of the magic that happened at yesterday’s event. How Women Lead offers several events per month, all focused on providing a platform for women to connect, learn, find purpose and make an impact.

The slide deck from the event is available here.

Check out our list of upcoming gatherings and snag your ticket by clicking this link.

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