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Posts Tagged ‘Women in Business’

Jean McIntyre

By Jean McIntyre (Marketing Angels)

“Why on earth with my busy schedule, and my family commitments would I want to add yet another time-zapping responsibility and become a member of a community board?”

That’s what a lot of women say when asked about the possibility of becoming involved on a the board of a commercial or community organisation.  That’s a real shame though because it can benefit those organisations immensely having a woman on board and can also benefit the woman’s own business.

I’ve recently been elected president of the Chamber of Women in Business.  I’m also on the boards of Exhibition Park in Canberra and Tandem Respite care.  I’m involved with the Wanniassa P&C as well as the Snowy Hydro Southcare Gala Dinner organising committee.  There are a lot of women on these organisations and there are some beneficial attributes I’ve noticed are common among most of these women.

Benefits for Organisations of Having Women on the Board

There are lots of reasons why (as the ACT Government has announced it will strive for) it is good to have equal representation women on the board.  I’ll preface this by saying that I am of course generalising and there are always exceptions on both sides:

  1. Women communicate well – it’s well known that communication is women’s forte.  We like talking and if an issue needs some discussion to flesh it out – women contribute constructively but also facilitate others’ involvement in the discussion.
  2. Women get things done – perhaps it’s because in women’s personal lives we’re generally responsible for making sure projects run smoothly and that everything works well to achieve outcomes.  Or perhaps women have these roles in their personal lives because we’re just better at it.  Either way, if you want to make sure something gets achieved it’s good to get a woman involved.
  3. Women understand people – generally, women engage with the world on an emotional level and understand intuitively they way others engage.  This is important to know when your organisation requires people to conduct its business.  Women can provide excellent insights into how to engage people and the risks posed by people’s emotional reactions to change.  Don’t forget that the major cause of breakdown in projects is not budget or schedule – it’s people and their expectations.
  4. Every single one of the reasons why you’d want men on a board.  Women of course are equally rich in their posession of skills, experience, strategic thinking, connections and business savvy as men of similar ilk.

So Why Aren’t There More Women on Boards?

The problem is there just aren’t enough boards that are able to take advantage of the additional benefits of getting good women as directors.

Part of that is that there is still somewhat of a glass ceiling  – for reasons I won’t go into here.  The other part is that for some reason, many women are a little reluctant to put themselves forward.

Today I spoke with someone from the Australian Institute of Company Directors who said that in her experience, women often felt that they had to prove themselves (often by doing board training) before they’d put themselves forward.  Men, she said, are more inclined to just give it a go.  ‘Readiness’ doesn’t seem to come into the equation.

As President of CWB – one of my goals is to get more of the business women of the ACT into positions of influence that will benefit both the community and their own businesses.

How Can Being on a Board Benefit Your Business?

It needs to be said that if you take a position on a board, your responsibility first and foremost is to that organisation and you need to act always in the best interests of the organisation.  For that reason you need to have genuine personal commitment and interest in helping move the organisation forward or it just won’t work.

That said, from a purely marketing point of view, there are lots of reasons why it’s good business for women to get on boards.:

  1. It instantly raises your profile in certain sectors – more people will pay attention to you as a person and indirectly to your business.
  2. It makes you a better business planner.  It should be the other way around – that being good at business will make you run an organisation better.  But often, the discipline required for strategic planning and corporate governance of a community organisation can help you build skills that you can apply to your own business management.
  3. It gives you authority – board membership (particularly in the community sector) gives you an opportunity to build up a specialist expertise that you can speak about in public forums and again raise your profile
  4. It can provide media exposure.  If the organisation has a good community profile it can offer good opportunity in the media.  Particularly if you take on a leadership role such as chair or president of the organisation. 
  5. You make good business connections.  Being on a board can get you access to people that you would never be introduced to in the general course of your business.  Politicians, business leaders, community leaders and even the odd celebrity.  We all know that relationships make the business world go round.
  6. It provides an alternative career path.  This is particularly important if your goal is to move away over time from the day to day management of your business.  While you are likely to start your board career in voluntary roles, if you enjoy it and are serious – you can aim to be on boards of very prestigious and successful organisations and achieve significant salaries if that’s what you seek.
  7. You get to do really interesting things. Often as a director you get invited to great events, networking, fundraising, conferences and training.  Of course you have a responsibility to work for the organisation at these events (not your own business) but they can make the job a lot of fun and get you some good contacts.
  8. I’ve saved the best till last – it just makes you feel really, really good helping out your community.  Increasingly these days it’s impossible to separate out your personal life from your business life and then from your life as a citizen of your community.  We all like to feel like we are valuable members of society and if you have good skills you can do much more for the community as a board member than you ever can as an individual volunteer for an organisation.

So if you are a business woman and reading this blog, if there is just an inkling inside you of interest in joining a board – my advice is just GO FOR IT. 

I’d be happy to hear anyone’s comments on the benefits of women on boards or ways that we might encourage more women to do it.

Jean Mc

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