By Amanda Schmid
Only 18% of S&P 500 boardrooms contain women. It will likely take 30 years for that number to grow to 30%.
In order to continue supporting women in leadership, the Women’s Business Association (WBA) recently hosted a panel to hear how two prominent female executives navigated their careers to lead them to positions on several boards.
The panel was led by Professor Victoria Medvec (above, left), executive director of the Center for Executive Women. She was joined by Gerri Elliott (above, middle), who serves on the boards of Whirlpool Corporation, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Charlotte Russe, and by Lisa Shalett (above, right), a former partner at Goldman Sachs who serves on the boards of Brookfield Property Partners and PerformLine.
Through many inspirational stories and life lessons, the panel conveyed five key messages:
Boards need more women
Research shows how women on boards improves overall company performance. As more and more women graduate with MBAs and other higher education degrees and attain senior leadership roles, it is time for the percentage of women in board seats to better reflect the percentage of women in the workplace.
Take smart risks
Great careers do not stay in a comfort zone. Being willing to step forward and embrace a new challenge will propel your career to new heights. Both panelists encouraged attendees to get comfortable being uncomfortable in their careers in order to gain experience and confidence. Ask yourself, “What would I do if I were not afraid?” and then pursue that answer.
Develop a strong network
At every level of a career, your effectiveness in your job can be enhanced by knowing more people. Seek out opportunities to work across divisions, sectors and countries to build a web of contacts and relationships. Be disciplined about committing the time required to build your network. Pay it forward to your relationships and they will repay in kind.
Invest in your reputation
Work hard at the start of a career to gain trust and respect of your colleagues. It will pay off in new opportunities that come your way and in greater potential to have control over how you manage your time.
Carefully evaluate a board
Once you identify a potential board that would value your experience, do your due diligence carefully. Take time to ensure that the board is a good fit for you and for the company, given that the role is a significant commitment of 20-40 days per year.
Corporate boards have a tremendous opportunity to seek out women leaders. It is important for female students to aspire to board seats by investing in their skills and networks and challenging themselves to take the smart risks that create experience and expertise. It’s not too early for Kellogg students to begin their careers with that ultimate goal in mind.
For additional information on serving on boards and finding opportunities, check out Broadrooms.com, a newly-launched resource for women, founded by our guest Gerri Elliott.
Amanda Schmid is a first-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to moving to Evanston, she worked in hospitals in DC and Baltimore as a clinician and a department head. She is specializing in finance and marketing at Kellogg and hopes to eventually find a strategic or general management role at a med device company.