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How and why to achieve your first board role

21 March 2013

How and why to achieve your first board role

A few good reasons are often all women need to set themselves on the path for a board role. Women on Boards has helped thousands of women in the past decade answer these questions and along the way assisted more than 1,000 of them get a seat at the boardroom table. 

While many of us don’t aspire to or are ill-placed to land an ASX directorship there are still many good reasons to aim to sit on a board.

Sitting on a board is good for your career.  By strategically choosing a board role in parallel to your day job, you are gaining exposure to a wide range of issues that are probably outside the realm of what you do every day. In effect you are up-skilling by learning how a board functions and the different way that a director assesses and guides an organisation.

Taking a seat at the boardroom table brings you into close working contact with a whole new network of people who may in time convert to new clients, a mentor, or additions to your professional network for future board opportunities. It gives you the chance to showcase your skills in a different environment.

Board members generally start off as executives, SME owners, service and technical professionals such as engineers. You will increase your career capability and the prospect of more senior roles by demonstrating that you have the skills required to operate in a strategic management role.

The pathway to a board career is one of patience and persistence, and it is different for everyone.

I recently interviewed Therese Ryan, a professional non executive director who said “When I started this journey I had some very sage advice from Harrison Young and my mentor Jane Hemstritch, to the effect that finding the right boards is a game of skill, chance and patience, and that it can take years.”

I recently met a WOB member who told me that her pathway to directorship began when she was offered the role of company secretary where she had the chance to see an accomplished board work in a difficult turn-around situation. She was so impressed and interested that she set the intent to be a professional director. Her first role was on a not for profit board and then a paid board role. Other opportunities followed and she now has a successful portfolio of board roles.

Yet another WOBer is on the board of a national sporting organisation. She had held senior roles in not for profit and government organistions throughout her career and had strong skills in strategy and change management. Her interest in joining the board came from the involvement of her two children in basketball in their formative years.  Her networks in the sport were strong and she had the particular skills that the board needed at the time.

A few key elements to landing a boar prevail including having a good network, an effective board pitch and resume, and telling people that you are looking and interested. Board roles are a important way for women from all walks of life to contribute to Australian society and it’s important for more women to put their hand up and be persistent in achieving those roles.

To learn more about boards attend the Women on Boards Conference in Sydney 8-10 May.



  • Claire Braund

    Claire Braund 7 years ago

    Hi Gloria, It depends on where you are on your board journey. We think it's a good course and recommend it but it's wise to be strategic about the timing.

  • gloria caruso

    gloria caruso 7 years ago

    Is it true that it helps to have the Company Director's course under our belt in order to be more 'attractive' as a potential Board member?