Female Board Members

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

Why should it be difficult to find well-qualified females to serve as independent directors for family business boards? Very frequently we are specifically asked by clients to present them with female director candidates. (Why do they make this request? Stay tuned to this blog later this week.) Sadly, in several cases this request proved quite challenging. Why should this still be the case, after all the gains that women have made? In discussion with several FBCG colleagues, the following thoughts arose:

1. Chicken and Egg Problem: Families seeking independent directors usually want candidates who have experience on boards. Women often lack experience on for-profit boards, although they frequently have non-profit board experience. Families can be reluctant to give a woman her first chance to serve as a director, no matter how qualified.

2. Women Commonly Serve in Non-Operating Roles: Director candidates with experience as ┬áCEO’s, Presidents or other operating leaders are most desirable. Many women concentrate their careers in HR, PR, Community Relations, etc. and are seen to bring less value to the board.

3. Women Still Lack Desired Experience: Direct experience with international expansion, successful innovation, strategic redirection, M&A etc. are highly sought after in board members, and women tend to be less likely to have those experiences.

Since women are often behind on the more traditional ‘leader’ front, families may need to be open to a different set of experiences in order to find strong female candidates. There are many well-qualified women with backgrounds in finance, HR, law, banking, consulting or education who could be great board members, even if they don’t fit the standard profile of a proven leader. That said they can be excellent strategic problem solvers.

What have you found as you seek well-qualified women as board members?

Later this week – why many families actively seek to find qualified women for their boards.

(Thanks to my colleagues, Stephanie Brun de Pontet and Jennifer Pendergast, co-authors with John L. Ward, of Building a Successful Family Business Board, for sharing their insights in this regard.) Top of Form


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