Landing a seat on a board can be extremely difficult. Even in marketing where female participation is high, men still dominate senior roles and it can be hard to break through. Despite this, it’s not impossible to secure a directorship – but you need to WANT it.
Being part of the team responsible for the strategic growth of a business can be a satisfying and exciting prospect. Lending your knowledge, experience and ideas and seeing them have an impact and make a difference, brings a new dimension to a professional career.
There are many ways you can go about getting a seat on a board. Many start by getting involved with charities and not-for-profit organisations, some look to gain qualifications and training to help make the leap, and many, like me, work their way up through an organisation.
Working your way up can be easier to do in small and medium-sized businesses, especially those that are growing quickly or have the potential to grow. Deciding to join this type of business, when in its infancy, means there will be more potential opportunities for you to rise through the ranks and perhaps one day, have the opportunity to be on a board.
Don’t be afraid to back yourself
It was nine years ago when I began my career at Edge (as the receptionist believe it or not) and in 2011 I was offered my seat at the board. I learnt you’ve got to back yourself. You need strong self-belief; you need to have the confidence to take on any challenge. I learnt that it’s OK to make a mistake; just don’t make it twice.
If I’m honest with myself, I think the secret to my success is I always thought firstly, what was the right decision for the company, even if it wasn’t in my best interest. And I continued to have that attitude and drive to do whatever it took for the business to be award-winning and famous.
Self-development is essential
Being great in your role isn’t enough though to get a seat on the board. Being a director involves making decisions and understanding all facets of the business, including finance, marketing, HR, IT, operations, the list goes on. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in these areas but you do need to understand their impact on the business and how they will help to achieve its objectives.
It is essential to take every opportunity to learn. Never be afraid to admit your weaknesses. You need to openly acknowledge these and focus on turning them into strengths. There are numerous options available like additional studies, seeking training and mentoring. Whichever way you go, be honest about your skill areas and where you need to build more knowledge and experience.
Also consider the unique expertise you can bring to a board. For me this is my knowledge of the day-to-day operations, having been a part of building all areas of the business, and how to effectively develop and manage client relationships. Further developing your strengths can give you an advantage as this specialty could be highly valued by a board that may be seeking that type of experience.
Don’t let gender get in your way
Luckily for me, gender isn’t a big issue in my industry or in Edge. However, this isn’t the case in many organisations. While it can be difficult to change the attitudes and bias of others, what you can do is not let gender cloud your belief in your own abilities.
To be successful boards require a diversity of experience and knowledge. If you want to earn your seat at the table, don’t let any idea about unworthiness get in the way of your goal.
About Sarah Willmott
Sarah Willmott is the Business Development Director for leading content marketing agency Edge. While with Edge, Sarah established all production processes and client service protocols, leading to the agency’s reputation for outstanding account service.
Edge is a strategic content marketing agency creating and producing custom content for brands across any channel or platform, including print, digital, gaming and broadcast. Edge has a strong heritage in quality editorial products and advertising sales, having started in 2003 as a custom magazine publisher. Edge’s clients include Woolworths, Volkswagen, Westpac, Australia Post and Adobe.