In 2015, new rules were implemented which require Canadian public companies to disclose, on an annual basis, certain information regarding women in executive positions and on boards (the Gender Disclosure Rules). On September 28, 2016, the Canadian Securities Administrators published the results (the Results) of its second annual review of compliance with the Gender Disclosure Rules, which indicated, among other things, an increase in the representation of women on boards (see a previous article summarizing these results here).
Both the Results and the establishment of the Gender Disclosure Rules indicate a clear push towards improvement of gender diversity on corporate boards. But what can women do to ensure that they are able to capitalize off of this trend?
Women should endeavour to expand their network. Most of the time, the way “in” to a corporate board is through a personal connection. Women can expand their networks by joining organizations and professional associations, or using their current network to meet CEOs and executives within their field.
Speaking at Governance-Related Events
Women can further increase their network by speaking at governance-related events such as the Annual Corporate Governance Conference. This will not only provide for a resume-boost, but may lead to contacts who have similar interests.
Expressing Interest to the CEO
Women should let the CEO of their organization know that they are seeking a position on a corporate board. This will not only elicit helpful feedback on how to enhance eligibility for a position, but may lead to the CEO providing a recommendation or creating a useful connection.
Seeking Out Relevant Not-for-Profit Experience
Women should start to “maneuver” towards their end-goal of being on a corporate board by serving on the board of a large non-profit organization (e.g., a university, a national non-profit in the health sector or a prestigious arts organization). This will provide excellent experience and may also lead to important connections for the future given that the boards of such organizations often include individuals who also sit on the boards of public companies.
Women should start taking the above-mentioned steps and seeking out marketable experiences early in their careers. Additionally, they should strive to establish relationships with older colleagues who may be able to provide valuable assistance to them in achieving their goal of getting on a corporate board.