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Breaking the boardroom gender barrier

Aug 07 2012 14:30

Cape Town - Research shows that a gender balanced board increases creativity and ideas, enhances problem-solving and improves corporate financial performance, says Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group.

There’s growing recognition of the valuable role women can play as directors of companies, but the rate of progress remains slow.

The number of female directors on boards of listed companies in SA, the USA and UK is only around 15%.

Burmeister believes that women can - and should - take proactive steps to prepare themselves for a directorship and to improve their odds against their male counterparts.

“Today’s leaders require strategic thinking skills and the ability to understand markets beyond their immediate scope of activity,” she says. “Aspiring professionals and executives need to expand their horizons and skills and to extend their career opportunities if they are aiming for a board position.

“Leadership depends not only on the depth but also on the breadth of experience that will enable you to cope with the fast rate of change in today’s global markets. Board directors need to possess not only outstanding business skills, but also extraordinary personal qualities and commitment.”

Burmeister gives the following tips on how women can develop these skills.

1. Develop the right capabilities

“The critical success factors for a non-executive director on a JSE-listed company board are relevant work experience, deep industry knowledge and specialist skills, commercial experience in a large company and being informed on issues of corporate governance,” says Burmeister.

“Many board members say their most useful career experience taught them how to think strategically and that this was honed while managing complex situations which they faced in senior roles.

“So develop your executive experience by running subsidiaries or divisions. Focus your attention on the success of your team. That is a cornerstone for a successful career. Have the confidence to speak out on hard issues; this demonstrates your ability to approach complex issues strategically and develops your credibility as a leader. And be confident about presenting your skills experience and capabilities.”

2. Find a mentor

Find yourself a mentor in the workplace who can assist in your advancement to senior positions and who may also serve as a career champion and sponsor. in the workplace who can assist in your advancement to senior positions and who may also serve as a career champion and sponsor.

“Use strategic networks so the ‘right people’ can see you in action making a valuable contribution,” says Burmeister. “Network, network, network. Directorships are often based on personal recommendations, so make yourself known at a senior level at work and in areas that are related - even indirectly - to your job, and seek networking opportunities with former CEOs and directors. Visibility is important, because if you are known, you tend to pop up on the radar when a company is looking to fill a position.

“Sitting on small company boards will give you valuable experience in governance, and also heighten your visibility. Get experience by volunteering to sit on a board of a non-profit organisation devoted to a cause you feel passionate about. Sitting on local authority and municipal boards is also a way of broadening your skills and decision-making.

“Be a leader: Initiate important schemes and special projects at work and in the community and take leadership positions on the non-profit boards you join. That’s the best way to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.

“In the final analysis, an extraordinary board career depends on three critical elements: playing to your strengths, setting your passions free, and fitting in comfortably with the culture and work ethos of your chosen organisation.”

 - Fin24

workplace  |  women


Thank you

2012-08-31 13:14


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