We’ll Meet You in the Broadrooms

broadroom

Who knew autocorrect could be a source of inspiration.

Broadrooms, a new informational resource for women who serve, or want to serve, on corporate boards, is a play on words (broaden means to improve and enrich), but the name really was suggested by Microsoft Word autocorrect, whose retyping of “boardrooms” struck a chord with founder Gerri Elliott.

For Elliott, who championed diversity throughout a long career in corporate leadership, helping women get on boards is all about broadening and enriching the conversations in the boardroom by bringing new voices and ideas to the fore. It’s proven that board diversity benefits the bottom line, yet less than 20% of corporate directors are women.

This underrepresentation makes it difficult for women–even those like Elliott with stellar careers at America’s top companies–to get an invitation to serve on corporate boards.  As Elliott researched and prepared for her own board service (she is now an Independent Board Member for Whirlpool, Bed Bath and Beyond and Charlotte Russe), she wanted to create a place where her story and the success stories of others could be shared.  “I have an unshakeable belief that the world would be a better place if more women served on boards,” says Elliott.  “I wish I had served on public boards earlier in my career.  I would have gained valuable insights from that experience that I could have utilized in my day to day operational role.”

Elliott shares the 8 steps that worked for her when she was seeking to find a seat on a corporate board:

 

1.  Define your value proposition and your targets. Help your network help you. Sit down and do an honest assessment of your experience and what kind of companies you can help the most.  Be specific.

2.  Ask for the support of your leadership team. If you’re still working, you need to ask for the support of the CEO and chairman of the board of your employer.

3.  Cast a wide net. Once you’ve defined your value proposition and what kind of boards you want to be on, let your network- at-large know

4.  Get some experience. At some point in this process, someone will ask you, “How much board experience do you have?” Fortunately, I had been presenting to the boards of various companies throughout my career, so even though I’d never served on a public board, I was able to speak to the experience I had interacting with boards over the past 12 years.

5.  Gather your references. You may already have a set of references, but the references you use to get on a public board may be different than the references you use to get your next operating gig. Ideally, you need board references.

6.  Educate yourself before you start the process.I took board education in preparation for interviews. I went to Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Director’s Consortium and their Director’s College. I took webinars from Deloitte’s Director Series. Duke has a class, UCLA has a class and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management has a class specifically for women directors, which I knew about since I serve on its board.

7.  Get expert help if you need it. Just as there’s more than one way to land a job, there’s more than one way to land a board seat. There are a few recruiting firms out there that do what I call reverse recruiting. They work proactively to go after a target list of boards which may be right for you. Through my network I found one, James Drury Partners, who were wonderful and helped me through this process.

8.  Choose wisely. Joining a board is an extremely important, long-term decision. There is a lot of personal and professional liability. Do not just take the first thing that comes along. You need to evaluate boards as much as they need to evaluate you. Find out everything you can about the company. Do some research on the board. Find out who has great governance rankings. Ask around your network and do your due diligence.

 

You can read more about these steps on the Broadrooms site.

The online community includes great tips and information for women just beginning the search as well as tools for those a little further down the journey such as the latest board appointments and board-ready candidate databases.   “The hope is everyone will find one nugget of information, ” adds Elliott.  “We encourage all our visitors to share additional resources with us so that we can in turn post them for our readers.  Browse the site and give us feedback, not only on the content we currently have available, but on what additional resources or tools we might be able to add that would be of value to the community.”

We look forward to meeting you all in the Broadrooms!