The program was co-chaired by Marlene Costa of the Ontario Securities Commission and Amee Sandhu of SNC-Lavalin. The speakers were Professor Anita Anand of the University of Toronto; Glenna Carr, a Member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, Ontario Chapter Executive; Carol Hansell of Hansell LLP; and Jane Pepino from Aird & Berlis LLP. All were interesting, engaging, and encouraging speakers who shared their insights on how to get on a board and the pros and cons that come with such a position.
Some takeaways from last night:
- You must be proactive when seeking out a board position. As Jane Pepino put it: “Don’t sit and wait for the phone to ring. This is not like the way dating used to be. It’s the way dating is now”. A board position isn’t going to just land in your lap.
- Make a list of the boards you want to be on. Strategize and make a plan to get there.
- Jane Pepino also recommended to first look to smaller companies or not-for-profit organizations, but also look for something that interests you: “Start small, but start where your heart takes you.”
- Professor Anand advised to “be prepared to take the plunge and do work you might not be getting paid for”. These positions can lead to a paid position.
- Get out there and volunteer and network. Networking is extremely important. You never know where a position might come from. Think about joining school councils if you have children or your alumni associations. Sign up for mentoring programs and let your mentor know that you have a goal of being on a board.
- When questioned about the difficulties of being the only woman (or one of two women) on a board, or facing a difficult board culture, Carol Hansell recommended reaching out to the other board members individually. The other people in the room might not know how to relate to you. Engage with them one on one.
- Once you are on a board, Professor Anand also advised: “Be skeptical. Think critically about the documents put in front of you.”
- When asked whether a mandatory requirement or quota system should be enforced in Canada for women on boards, Professor Anand noted that there are plenty of European countries that have quotas in place, so we wouldn’t be the first. However, she thought it would be a good idea to wait at least a year to see how the “comply or explain” rules may change things and that “comply or explain” has worked in other areas of governance.
This program was very well attended and I was fortunate to meet some great women at the networking event as well. The next Pathways to Power program will be held in April 2016 and is focused on “Women on the Bench”.