In observance of the official American Business Women's Day on September 22nd, BlueSteps devoted the entire month of September to facilitate discussion on a variety of topics related to women in business, from gender diversity on boards, to work-life balance, to obtaining your next opportunity. This programming is only an extension of what BlueSteps and the Association of Executive Search Consultants are committed to throughout each year, but it is an official recognition for all the women who make a difference in the workplace across the world.

Women in Business
Women have had an uphill battle to shatter that glass ceiling. The evidence now shows that companies are increasing the numbers of women holding executive positions in their organizations.
The number of women on corporate boards is increasing, but only about 3% of public companies analyzed in a 2012 study by GMI Ratings Inc. (which surveyed 3,000 companies), have more than three women on their boards.

When it comes to women on boards, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) has come a long way, Baby, to quote an old TV ad for the Virginia Slims. The first issue of NACD’s original newsletter, Director’s Monthly, featured a Board of the Month – first American Savings and Loan. The board’s photo shows 15 directors, all apparently white males. This kind of board composition was commonplace in the late 1970s, and NACD’s membership reflected this fact. Flash forward to the present day, when most boards have diversity and the picture looks as quaint as a TV ad for smokes. How can a board grow in diversity? Here is the story from NACD, expressed as lessons learned for boards and for the individuals who seek to join them. 

A recent study by Goldman Sachs found that creating a more gender-balanced board could boost the euro zone’s gross domestic product by up to 13 percent. So where are the women? Having a female director on a company’s board has too often been seen as a token gesture in the surface interests of achieving gender equality. However, an increasing number of reports from industry experts further strengthen what many already knew: there are a multitude of tangible benefits that women bring to the table.
New opportunities for female executives to become board directors are on the rise, but how can female executives best position themselves for when they appear? In today’s highly competitive business environment, it has never been more vital that female executives receive the best possible advice and information to secure their positions as board directors, and prevent themselves from getting stuck beneath the infamous glass ceiling. According to Catalyst’s 2012 census, only 16.6% of board seats are being taken up by women; it is clear that if you want to join this percentage, you must gain as much first-hand knowledge as you can.

The global Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) and their BlueSteps.com service join forces with the European Commission, leading business schools, corporate women and professional organizations from around the world in support of gender diversity on corporate boards. The announcement has been made at dual press conferences in New York at the Forté Foundation and in Brussels at the European Commission with the European Business Schools/Women on Board initiative.

The rules of corporate governance are changing rapidly. Spurred by shareholder activism, a strong emphasis on shareholder value enhancement and the imperative to be a responsible corporate citizen, the demands on CEO and Board are becoming stringent.

However, in many cases Board room practices do not meet today’s demands, and this raises several questions for Independent Board Directors. Should Independent Board Directors permit the CEO and their fellow directors to stand still? Should they remain passive and not rock the boat? Or should they act as true catalysts for change? If so, what can they concretely do to exercise effective participation in the Board ?

Being a member of a board of directors is a sought after position for many senior-level executives. Limited seats are available on boards, which means competition for membership is high, thus senior-level executives have to be well qualified in order to be shortlisted as a candidate.
Expert retained executive search professionals, who fill such positions on a regular basis, tend to advise potential candidates to follow five key strategies. For an insight into some of these, see the below points. View the full webinar for the full list and expanded commentary.
1. Make Yourself Known!