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12 tips for women executives seeking a seat in the boardroom

Clarify your motivation to serve on a board. Understanding your own reasons for pursuing board service will help you determine if you’re ready for the time commitment board service requires.

Educate yourself on board duties and responsibilities. Know how a board operates and what your role will be.

Understand the implications of board service. From fiduciary responsibility to risk (reputational and financial), you’ll need to know all the details of serving on your board.

Hone in on the sectors and companies that match your experience. Board service typically aligns with the industry in which you’ve spent most of your career. And size matters, too. If your executive experience has been with small, privately held companies, your first board seat will most likely be with a company of the same size.

Consider the value you add to a board. You need to be clear about the unique value you – and only you – bring to a board. Match your skill set to the needs identified by the board.

Have a good board CV. These documents, which are separate from your professional resume, should highlight your background, accomplishments and achievements in a way that enables board decision-makers to understand the value you bring to the boardroom.

Solidify an on-point personal brand. Before you start the boardroom process, you should develop a reputation for excellence that’s reflected in your online presence and within your network.

Perfect your networking. Fact: search firms fill less than 15% of corporate board seats. Networking is crucial. Know whom in your network to reach out to, how and when to reach out to them, and what to say.

Branch out. C-suite executives looking to join boards should attend specific events focused on building board skills and should branch out to other networks that may help them explore opportunities. Joining the National Association of Corporate Directors is a good place to start.

Be vocal about your board service goals. Word of mouth matters, and many public boards and other opportunities come from serving on non-profit boards.

Check in with the experts. Professional organizations that specialize in board resources and matchmaking, such as Women in the Boardroom, work with the world’s largest companies and know plenty of candidates to recommend for culture and skill fit.

Remain confident. Women need to believe they deserve a seat at the table – because we do!

Sheila Ronning is CEO and founder of Women In The Boardroom, a professional organization providing senior executive women with the tools, knowledge and connections for board service.

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