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Women on Boards

Thursday, August 10 2017

QUESTION: Dear AFETT,

I am interested in serving on a board of directors. How do I get selected? How can I prepare myself so that I add real value? What are the traits of successful female directors?

~ Aspiring Director

DEAR INNOVATOR,

According to a global study done in 2015 by MSCI ESG Research, which included more than 4,200 firms, the average percentage of women on boards is 15%. If this holds true in Trinidad and Tobago, where women represent half the national population, we clearly have work to do.

It is important to understand that boards of directors can have great influence, as they make decisions that can impact us, our community and our country. That’s why it’s important that corporate boards truly represent a company’s or country’s constituents. Boards of directors choose CEOs. They make decisions about compensation, whether to buy, sell, or merge with other companies, and how much priority a company gives to issues other than profits, such as corporate social responsibility.

More women should aspire to serve on boards of companies, NGOs and institutions, so that their voices can be heard in the national conversation. But in order to serve effectively, you must understand the role of directors, what you bring to the table and how you can build your own brand of competence.

HOW ARE YOU SELECTED?

According to a 2012 PwC Annual Corporate Directors Survey, public companies use a number of sources to recruit new board members:

This clearly shows that the best way to be considered for a board position is to be part of a strong network of business leaders, who will recommend you when directorships become available. Boards will look for directors with expertise in different areas, depending on the strategic direction of the firm or institution. These can include industry experience, financial expertise, corporate governance experience, risk management or legal expertise, etc.

You should create a dossier about yourself including chronological and narrative bios highlighting your experience and interests. These documents are critical to marketing you to prospective boards. It is important to expand your presence on social media sites such as LinkedIn, where you can join relevant groups like 20 /20 Women on Boards.

You also need to understand if you have the time to serve. Board service requires a significant investment of time. Between preparations, travel, meeting time and committee work, the average director can spend up to 300 hours a year on board matters, so it is important to decide in advance if this is a realistic commitment that you are ready and willing to make.

THE ROLE OF DIRECTORS:

The role of a director varies from organisation to organisation, but broadly speaking, their key purpose is to ensure the company’s prosperity by collectively directing the company’s affairs, whilst meeting the appropriate interests of shareholders and stakeholders. In addition to business and financial issues, boards of directors deal with challenges and issues relating to corporate governance, social responsibility and ethics.

In a public company, the board of directors is appointed to act on behalf of the shareholders to run the day to day affairs of the business. They are directly accountable to the shareholders and each year the company will hold an annual general meeting (AGM) at which directors provide a report to shareholders on the performance of the company, outline future plans and strategies and if eligible, submit themselves for re-election to the board.

THE TRAITS OF

SUCCESSFUL DIRECTORS

In order to be considered for a board position, you need to:

- Demonstrate knowledge of the business and industry.

- Prove you are part of an effective professional network.

- Provide evidence of professional achievement.

- Understand corporate governance.

AFETT is a not-for-profit organization formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today’s response was written by AFETT member, Lara Quentrall- Thomas, Founder and First President of AFETT, and Chairman of Regency Recruitment & Resources Ltd – www.regencytrinidad.com . Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at 354-7130. Email us your career-related questions at admin.afett@gmail.com.

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