In recent years, tech companies are facing more pressure to increase representation of women on their boards, following data that shows a correlation between increased diversity and better business performance. Since now is the perfect time for women to pursue leadership positions in their companies, we turned to Lesley Grossblatt, COO of theBoardlist, for insight on how women can best position themselves for a board position.
theBoardlist is a curated talent marketplace for experienced male and female board directors to recommend, discover and connect with highly qualified women for opportunities to serve on private and public company boards. In its first 18 months since launching, it has influenced over 100 board placements at Time, Fossil Group Inc., Shutterfly, MINDBODY, Shutterstock, and Solium Capital, among others.
theBoardlist stresses that projecting a strong personal brand is key for women to attract board opportunities. Please elaborate on that.
One thing all boards have in common is that they are looking for proven, successful professionals who have made notable accomplishments in the areas relevant to the board —whether it’s reaching $1 billion in revenues, scaling to millions of users, or building a global brand. To find these people, boards rely mostly on personal referrals. There aren’t job postings for board positions that one can apply for. Because of this reliance on networking and referrals, those who want to join boards have to be top-of-mind and recognized as an industry leader in their specific area of expertise. Without a strong personal brand, would-be board candidates aren’t able to stand out or differentiate themselves from the thousands of other highly qualified board candidates in the market.
You also emphasize the importance of “having a modern image.” What are some ways that can be projected? Do you have any advice in particular for very senior executives?
Very senior executives are clearly advantaged in one important way in that they’ve got track records and proven accomplishments built over an impressive career. But experience can cut both ways. Over-reliance on talking about non-recent accomplishments can raise questions about the board candidate’s ability to help the company be forward-thinking. Because boards must be focused on the future direction of the company, it’s critical for senior executives to be able to speak to current and emerging issues and relate their experience and knowledge in a forward-thinking manner.
The other harsh truth about having a modern image is also about physical appearance. Does the candidate look like a 1990’s version of an executive with outdated/stuffy wardrobe choices, hairstyles, eyeglasses, etc.? Or does the candidate present a modern image in their wardrobe and grooming choices? It seems superficial, but it is a fact that, whether consciously or subconsciously, people make assessments about a candidate’s relevance to current and future challenges based also on appearance, not just résumé.
How can branding on the Internet be maximized in such strategies?
Raising one’s visibility as a thought leader has never been easier given the multiple tools available for personal branding, whether it’s having a strong professional profile on platforms like theBoardlist or LinkedIn, publishing a blog, or cultivating a following on Twitter and other social media. The challenge is to approach all the various ways a board candidate is presenting her/himself in social media with a consistent, personal brand that is clear, memorable and impactful.
Many young women in the early stages of their careers include board seats among their goals. How can they begin establishing the right brand image at that phase?
If board service is in your future, the starting point is to first focus on developing deep expertise within your field. Having a record of notable accomplishments within your industry is table stakes for even being considered for board service, so at the earlier part of your career, this should be your focus. So spend time now developing your niche and articulating and refining your superpower.
Lesley Grossblatt has served as theBoardlist’s COO since 2016. She has built products used by millions of small businesses and consumers worldwide throughout her 18-year career in technology at companies including Netflix, Intuit, CreativeLive, and theBoardlist. Lesley was named in Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business list for 2017 and has been a featured speaker at Fast Company’s Innovation Festival, the inaugural Women in Product Conference, and The Girls Lounge.
Note to readers:
To qualify for being listed on theBoardlist’s database as a board candidate, you must be nominated by a qualified endorser; individuals may not nominate themselves. To learn more, please visit theBoardlist’s FAQ page.