Last year I increased my efforts to help successful professionals prepare for becoming paid Corporate Directors. I have been inspired and impressed with the caliber of people that have enrolled in my course. I have also discovered some of the barriers that prevent people from becoming candidates for directorships in corporate America.
There remains systemic barriers that make it difficult for so many people to gain access to the corporate boardroom. The persistence of implicit biases can undermine a candidate for a corporate directorship simply because of the last name on a resume, the college that the person attended or a hairstyle. Such biases are being addressed in most reputable companies and there is a growing awareness in corporate America that these issues are real and not imagined. The video that captured the brutal death of George Floyd, sparked a new season of discourse and discovery that is long overdue. In turn, more opportunities are opening for corporate decision-making roles than in any previous period in our history. We have a long way to go but the pace is increasing significantly.
However, these opportunities can only be accessed by people who have prepared themselves for success and this level of service. What is most interesting about my work is that I often witness high powered, well trained and experienced executives that are having difficulty in three areas:
- Identifying people that they can contact to assist them in their pursuit of a corporate board seat.
- Developing a strategy for approaching people they have identified and asking them for assistance in accessing a board opportunity.
- Translating their executive experience into a resume that indicates qualifications in a governance role.
Even though many of my participants are graduates of prestigious business schools, apparently these skills are not taught. Perhaps my leadership experience in religious organizations and government positions prepared me for the transition to corporate governance. It brings me great joy to watch people have their “aha” moment, when discovering strategies that they can easily embrace and execute to get to their next level. In some instances, students have been able to use our strategies immediately in their professional environment.
This has proved to me that the benefits of our work together are not limited to becoming a corporate director. People are finding that the pandemic gives them the time they otherwise would not have to engage in the process and make this investment in themselves. For me, it is all very exciting.