Women CEOs Share Tips for Finding Board Member Roles to Advance Your Career

Women CEOs Share Tips for Finding Board Member Roles to Advance Your Career

By MCKENNA MOORE

 
Women hold just over 10 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies, according to Catalyst Inc. Chief executives gathered at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif. on Tuesday spoke to a room of women interested in joining a board and what that entails. The panel, moderated by the conference’s executive director Pattie Sellers, included Heather Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of Solv Health and a board member at Atlassian; Melody McCloskey, founder and CEO of StyleSeat; Kate Richard, founder and CEO of Warwick Energy Group and board member for Flotek Industries; and Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty and member of the board at The Estée Lauder Companies.

 

Here are the panelists’ tips on preparing for and getting a board membership.

 

Network, network, network.

 

The panelists all agreed that building a network of board members, CEOs, venture capitalists, and others is the fastest way to find yourself a board position. These are the people getting the calls to refer potential board members, Tejada said, so you want to be top of mind. She said if you reach out monthly to foster those connections, you’ll start getting interviews.

 

“When you approach these people, be incredibly surgical,” Richard adds. If you are extremely specific about your skill set and desired position, it will be easier for people in your network to refer you for any particular board, she said.

 

Ask for a preview.

 

Fernandez said if you have something of substance to offer the board of a company, such as a presentation of research or a successful project, ask to attend a meeting. Seeing how the group functions and how a CEO runs the gathering will add to your understanding of boards generally and what kind of board you would like to be a part of.

 

Use the available resources.

 

Panelists also shared resources for aspiring board members to use in order to network and sus out opportunities. These included Catalyst, the National Association of Corporate Directors, The Board List, and Him for Her.

 

Get in where you fit in.

 

Knowing yourself and “your superpower,” as Fernandez puts it, is key in finding board work. The value that you bring to the table is unlike that of anyone else, she said, and trying to be something you’re not is a recipe for disaster. This is why, according to Tejada and McCloskey, it is important to make sure you fit the unique needs and culture of a company before you join its board. They said that as CEOs, they have seen how selective one must be when recruiting board members, and that filling a gap with specific characteristics and expertise is the best way to demonstrate value and ultimately get the job.

 

 

.

How Diversity Officers Change Corporate Culture

How Diversity Officers Change Corporate Culture

These executives change hiring practices, oversee trainings and measure company climate.

By Rebecca Koenig, US News

 

BY 2045, PEOPLE OF color will make up the majority of the U.S. population.

 

That demographic shift, predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau, is one reason why companies are starting to take workplace diversity, inclusion and equity more seriously. In corporate America, this has manifested in part through the proliferation of chief diversity officers, who are charged with creating policies and climates supportive of workers from an array of backgrounds.

 

As of 2012, 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies had diversity executives, according to the Wall Street Journal.

 

"It's becoming standard across companies," says Allison Scott, chief research officer at the Kapor Center, which aims to increase diversity in the technology and entrepreneurship sectors. "I think that's a promising and important sign."

 

However, having a chief diversity officer on the payroll is not a panacea, researchers say.

 

"That all sounds good and well, but in the past there wasn't as much accountability for it," says Kisha Jones, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University. "You could get an A for effort for attempting the different practices but not have to show how change happens."

 

Still, the presence of a diversity executive in the C-suite is one sign job seekers should look for when assessing whether a company is equipped to hire and retain diverse workers and effectively market to the heterogeneous customer base of the future.

 

Learn more about what these officers do and other signs to look for when evaluating a company's commitment to diversity.

 
Duties and Conditions for Success

 

The work of diversity officers, also known as equal opportunity professionals, cuts across departmental boundaries. They influence hiring, training and company cultural practices that relate to three "big buckets," explains Archie Ervin, vice president and chief diversity officer at the Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

 

The first is diversity, which is descriptive of the ways in which people differ. The second is inclusion, or the extent to which people thrive in a particular institutional setting. The third is equity, or fairness, which is governed in part by federal policies such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (banning workplace discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin) and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

 For hiring, diversity officers may work with human resources and recruiting teams to measure the breakdown of job applicant and candidate pools by gender, race and other characteristics and suggest changes to remove hiring barriers preventing different sets of people from getting jobs. They may oversee training programs related to unconscious bias, run workshops about communicating effectively in teams or plan classes about civility in the workplace. To better understand the state of a company's climate, officers may issue surveys asking employees how satisfied they are in their roles, then look for patterns in the results that suggest racial, gender or other disparities.
 
 
Among the conditions critical to diversity officer success are reporting directly to the CEO, having a mandate to set strategies and possessing the authority to hold managers and workers accountable for meeting goals. One of the most important conditions is building a strong business case to justify their work.

 

"They can have that moral stance, but that stance alone isn't going to be enough of a motivation," Jones says. "For organizations, it's always coming back to the bottom line."

 

Challenges Diversity Officers Face

 

With movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, diversity dominates today's headlines. That these efforts are controversial hints at the pushback diversity officers sometimes face from "people who are resistant to diversity" and "people who feel like they aren't represented in the diversity initiatives," Jones says.

 

To put it bluntly, she explains, "If white men think things are being taken away from them, that's a tension that needs to be managed."

 

Google grappled with this problem in August 2017, when a software engineer shared an essay that criticized company efforts to boost the standing of women employees and questioned women's general suitability for technology jobs. In reply, Google's vice president of diversity, integrity and governance issued a statement reiterating that the company is "unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

 

The episode exemplifies the common misconception that "diversity officers are only concerned about particular groups," which is "untrue," says Richard Anthony Baker, assistant vice chancellor and assistant vice president of the Office of Equal Opportunity Services at University of Houston and president of the board of the American Association for Access, Equity, and Diversity. "They're concerned about the overall health of the organization by being concerned with everyone."

 

Workers and managers who aren't necessarily opposed to diversity may still find it uncomfortable to talk about, having grown accustomed to "colorblind models" of operating that experts consider to be outdated, Jones says.

 

"We've been trained that we don't talk about race, that these protected classes are things we don't openly, strategically discuss," Baker says. "It's a challenge to get over that apprehension to have the conversation."

 

Other Indications That Companies Value Diversity

 

To figure out whether a company takes diversity, inclusion and equity seriously, diversity officers are just one factor to consider. The Kapor Center's research identified four other criteria as essential to the success of such efforts at technology companies:

 

 

Information about most of these criteria should be easily accessible to job seekers on a company's website, Baker says: "It shouldn't be hard for me to find a diversity statement, diversity office or programming. Do they have affinity groups that have some role within the governance?"

 

These days, company diversity goals should go beyond boilerplate statements, Scott says. When assessing potential employers, she recommends looking for "really sophisticated messages about why it's important and embedded in the work they do and the product they develop." Similarly, check not just that employee resource groups exist, but also whether they have meaningful budgets to carry out programs and channels to communicate with company leaders.

 

Job interviews present candidates with opportunities to do more research. Baker recommends job seekers ask interviewers about company policies on issues important to them, such as accessibility, gender expression and sexual orientation.

 

"If they don't know, that would be concerning to me," he says. "I actually want to hear from employees if that's part of the consistent message."

 

 

.

.

Finding the Right Mentor!

Finding the Right Mentor

By Matt D'Angelo, Business News Daily

 

Finding the right mentor is not really a secret to success – it's as obvious as it is essential. Learning from someone older, wiser and more experienced is an invaluable business opportunity, whether you've just started your first job or you're halfway through your career. As we slip into the day-to-day routine of working life, it's easy to get lost in the moment – our problems are 6 inches from our face, and a mentor can be the person to reset things so we can look at our careers and growth from a new perspective.

 

None of this is new information. We all would love to have a guiding hand help us figure out this complex and stressful professional world. If you're looking for a mentor, these are the three most important things to keep in mind:

 

  • Define what you want out of your career and what you need to learn to get there.

 

  • Approach a mentor relationship as if it's a business friendship – be casual and friendly, and try not to ask weird questions like, "Will you be my mentor?"

 

  • Start with your own professional network. We often already have mentors who provide advice in various ways, and all it takes is a little effort from us to grow that connection into an ongoing relationship.

 

Vicki Salemi, a career expert for popular job search platform Monster, said it's important for a mentor and a mentee to realize that the connection doesn't always need to be an intense, formal thing. It's better to focus on maintaining the professional relationship and learning what you can.

 

"It doesn't have to be completely intensive, and that's what both the mentor and mentee should know – it's an ongoing dialogue conversation, and it's a relationship that's not going to completely overhaul your life," Salemi said.

 

Part of finding a mentor means learning how to appropriately follow up, add value to your mentor's life and career, and be proactive in your own career growth. These lessons can apply to any worker at any stage of their career. Especially for young workers who are just emerging in an industry or lack the experience needed to progress, you might feel self-conscious and wary of your endeavors. Sometimes, all you need in these moments is someone to look up to, someone who has been in your shoes but created their own path to success.

 

"The modern mentor can elevate both your mind and your career in a way that cannot be taught in school, a boardroom or on a business trip," said Demetri Argyropoulos, CEO of Avant Global. "For me, mentorship has been an invaluable part of my career growth."

 

 

The first step to find a mentor is defining what you want out of your career. This may not mean planning out your whole career – it's important to leave room to go where things take you – but defining what you want in the short term can give you a clear path forward. Consider your career path and narrow it down so you can determine who has your dream job and who you admire, said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps.

 

"Successful mentoring relationships happen when the mentor and mentee are the right match," Driscoll said. "Reach out to someone you think you are comfortable with, who can be a neutral sounding board, and [who] will also provide great advice."

 

You can also look in your own professional circle. These individuals can be former bosses, former professors or teachers, co-workers in another department, or family friends. As you look, try to prioritize someone who can give you long-term advice about your industry and has a good idea of your own company and what it takes to advance within your role.

 

"I think it's probably best to have a combination of somebody who knows your internal organization well but not necessarily works there," Salemi said. "They can provide that insight with having a grander view of your career's growth."

 

Someone who has a general idea of your current role and industry will be able to give you advice on things like new projects to explore, certifications or training you need to get ahead, and how to manage office politics within your organization.

 

Once you're ready to reach out to someone, it's important to keep things casual. Salemi said your approach to a potential mentor should be the same as an approach to a potential friend – your relationship will develop over time. Don't force things; stay relaxed. Lessons and advice will come over time.

 

"It's not like you'll be at a conference and chat with someone sitting next to you and say, 'Oh, will you be my mentor?'" Salemi said. "It's a process. It's kind of like when you think about friends in your life, how you met them and how maybe over the period of a year or so you've gotten to become really good friends … in the beginning, you didn't say, 'Will you be my friend?' That would be completely awkward."

 

The difference between mentorships and friendships, however, is in how you follow up.

 

 

Once you've met with someone and had an initial conversation, if you think they can provide valuable advice to you as your career progresses, make sure you think critically about how and when to follow up. If they're open to continuing a dialogue, set calendar reminders on when to follow up. How often you speak with your mentor is up to you, but the goal is long-term, continued insight. That could mean hopping on the phone or meeting for coffee once a quarter, or even just twice a year.

 

"You definitely should make a note on your calendar, because we're so busy time can escape us," Salemi said. "Let's say you connect with your mentor by the end of [October] – make a note to check in with them over the holidays, and then maybe ask to get on their calendar literally for January."

 

While in-person meetings are important, social media offers mentees the opportunity to have regular, no-pressure interactions with mentors. Use Twitter and LinkedIn for light things – interesting articles, book recommendations, important industry news, etc.

 

Social media gives mentees the opportunity to nudge their mentors, reminding them not only that they exist outside of the semiannual dinner, but also that they value the relationship. Be sure not to nudge too frequently, though, or you'll come off as pushy. More importantly, don't discuss important career ideas over email or social media – save that for the in-person interactions.

 

"Make a point of trying to meet up with them," Salemi said. "If their calendar is packed, think outside the box in terms of 'OK, I'll meet you in your office' or 'Can we FaceTime?' just to get that interaction … you shouldn't [just] be sending emails."

 

One final, more meaningful way to connect with a mentor is regular mail. A thank-you note or holiday card can go a long way to show you value your mentor's advice and presence in your life.

 

 

Whether you're the founder of a brand-new startup or an entrepreneur with a bit of business experience under your belt, you can always benefit from a mentor.

 

"A mentor can serve as a sounding board at critical points throughout your career," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing firm The Creative Group. "They can provide guidance on career management you may not be able to get from other sources and an insider's perspective on the business, as well as make introductions to key industry contacts."

 

Doña Storey, OPEN Mentorship Institute mentor and American Express OPENadvisor on procurement, noted that mentors can help their mentees identify and avoid business pitfalls, and work through the challenges ahead of them.

 

Another important aspect Salemi pointed out is that, when we're immersed in our own careers, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. It's important to have advocates for you – especially early in your career. These should be people other than your boss, and they should provide insight on getting ahead as well as supporting your overall goals.

 

 

At the most basic level, your mentor should have more experience than you and a track record of success.

 

"A great mentor is someone whose qualities make up a much better version of who you envision yourself to become," said Argyropoulos. "On the other hand, some great mentors may help you to learn who not to be like – for example, a very successful businessman who is struggling in his personal life. Great mentors have a complementary skill set and bring different qualities to the table. Different perspectives are valuable in the mentor-mentee relationship."

 

Doug White, career expert and editor of career and management insights website TCG Blog, recommended seeking a mentor who has a strong character and traits worth emulating.

 

"Look for mentors who are authentic, empathetic, creative and honest," said White. "You need someone who's caring and invested in your professional growth, but also someone who will speak truth to you. Sometimes you need some constructive criticism or a reality check, while other times you need a high five or pat on the back. A well-chosen mentor can provide all of those things."

 

A mentor in the same business area as you may better understand your business's challenges and concerns, but Storey said that fruitful mentoring relationships don't necessarily have to happen within the same industry. Leadership philosophy may be more important.

 

"Make sure that the mentor shares a similar value system in leadership and management," Storey said. "Knowing who you are as a leader is critical before entering into a mentoring relationship. Only then can you align yourself with the right guide."

 

 

As a mentee, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of asking a lot of your mentor without giving anything in return. While your mentor might be happy to provide you with advice regardless, it's still important to think of some ways to show your appreciation and make yourself available for your mentor.

 

Salemi said, at the very least, it's important to prove you appreciate the relationship by valuing your mentor's advice and time – if only by arriving at meetings early or adjusting your own schedule to make a meeting more convenient for your mentor. Young professionals may not have a lot to offer their mentors, but they can offer them respect and appreciation.

 

"You can be a great mentee to your mentor by following up when you say you're going to – staying on their radar – because chances are, if they're the right fit for you, they'll appreciate providing information," Salemi said. "Thank them, acknowledge them, don't squander their time."

 

 

The whole point of seeking out a mentor is to get important insight and advance your career. The only way that's possible is if you're proactive about your own situation.

 

"We need to be proactive – what it comes down to is everyone needs to be proactive in their own career advancement and growth," Salemi said. "Let's say you like your job and you think, 'Oh, things are going well' – you still need a mentor because, at some point, you may hit a plateau."

 

With a mentor, keep it simple and stay relaxed about the relationship. There's often a lesson to be learned from someone who's further along in their career. The key is being open to whatever lesson or message that is.

 

"Seek out someone who you want to emulate, who can help you in areas where you're deficient in knowledge and skills," Argyropoulos added. "My most impactful mentor experiences evolved through sharing experiences and stories, and at some point, the mentee can also teach the mentor. You want to create an environment where you're paying that knowledge forward to others."

 

.