CREATING SHE-ROES:
SPONSORING WOMEN LEADERS THROUGH BOARD SERVICE

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.
2018 April 12

What does an effective leader look like in your mind? Whether you are male or female, it is likely that you saw a male person in your mind’s eye.

Tina Kiefer, a UK professor, discovered this while conducting a business executives workshop. As the New York Times reported, Kiefer realized that “both men and women almost always draw men” when asked to draw an effective leader. The drawings of men showed them in different shapes, sizes and moods. But they were still undeniably men.

What’s going on here? Unfortunately, Kiefer’s finding confirms what we already know but still struggle to resolve: that “women have a more difficult time getting noticed as a leader than men”. An Academy of Management Journal study discusses this issue here.

Thus, CEOs should focus on initiatives that sponsor more women to occupy senior leadership roles in the company. This will help break the classic stereotype that leaders are mostly men.

But that’s easier said than done. Women can’t even reach those senior leadership roles in the first place. Why? Because they don’t have the opportunity to develop senior leadership skills in their middle management roles.

So what can CEOs do to help women develop senior leadership skills?

One way is to have a nonprofit board matching program for women to develop experiential, on-the job leadership skills.

Just ask CSR and governance expert, Alice Korngold. She recently published “Better World Leadership: The Nonprofit Board Leadership Study”. The Korngold report was sponsored by American Express, HP, Johnson Controls, Dow Chemicals and PIMCO.

Korngold provides compelling data on why nonprofit board service is an effective leadership opportunity. And developing effective leaders is crucial to increasing corporate shareholder value.

Alice Korngold & Josephine Yam

Josephine Yam met with Alice Korngold, author of the “Better World Leadership: The Nonprofit Board Leadership Study”, in downtown Toronto last February.

The report states that 81% of corporate employees who serve on nonprofit boards rose to board leadership roles. These roles include board chair, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer. They developed invaluable senior leadership skills including:

 
Community relations
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Board governance
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Communication
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Networking
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Decision-making
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Strategic planning
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Consensus-building
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Critical thinking
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Problem solving
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Creativity & innovation
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.

“By gaining leadership experience on boards in solving community problems, employees can become effective leaders in finding innovative solutions at their companies," Korngold explains. "People develop as leaders through experience, rather than by learning in passive settings.”

As Maya Angelou wisely counsels:

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”

Thus, companies should sponsor more female employees to serve on nonprofit boards. Nonprofit board programs will increase their female talent pipelines in companies. And eventually, we will likely see more women occupying senior leadership roles in Corporate Canada.

So the next time we’re asked to draw an effective leader, more of us will hopefully draw images of women. Women in different shapes, sizes and moods. But women as effective leaders and “she-roes” nonetheless.

B3 Canada CEO, Josephine Yam, has been nominated for the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards.

Please scroll down this link and vote for her:

http://canadianimmigrant.ca/canadas-top-25-immigrants/vote

Thank you for your support!

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"Diversity and inclusion has become a CEO-level issue around the world," observed Deloitte in its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report. "The era of diversity as a 'check the box' initiative owned by HR is over. CEOs must take ownership and drive accountability among leaders at all levels to close the gap between what is said and actual impact".

So what happens when a CEO does not prioritize diversity and inclusion?

Let's take the story of global retailer H&M as an example.

Trudeau’s ‘Because it’s 2015!’ response to why his new cabinet was half-female was iconic and memorable, even hopeful and encouraging.

So it was deeply disappointing to read the BoardSource 2017 Report released yesterday on its particular findings on nonprofit board diversity. Yes, it’s 2017 and there’s still no diversity in nonprofit boards. After two years since its last national survey, nonprofit boards are still painfully lacking in diversity.

MEET OUR PARTNERS

  • Alberta's Promise operates within the Government of Alberta’s Department of Human Services. With over 1,800 business, nonprofit and community partners, they help businesses connect with non-profits across Alberta to make meaningful contributions that benefit children and youth ages 0 to 24.

  • CanadaHelps is a nonprofit serving Canadian charities and donors. They increase charitable giving across Canada by making it easier to donate and fundraise online. Because CanadHelps is a charity, their fees are a fraction of for-profit alternatives, making donation dollars go further.

  • The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is a member-based nonprofit organization founded in 2002 in Edmonton, AB. They serve the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Alberta Capital Region.

  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is the provincial network for the approximately 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario. As a 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders, ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and business to create and influence systemic change.

  • For over 62 years, Propellus has been supporting volunteers and volunteerism within the communities of Calgary. It strongly believes that volunteering is essential to creating and sustaining healthy, supportive and connected communities.

  • The Sustainability Network is a national organization that works with environmental nonprofits to make them more effective and efficient. Their mission is to enrich environmental leaders and nonprofit organizations so that they can help us all achieve sustainability.

  • Founded in 1943, Vantage Point delivers learning opportunities focused on governance, leadership, planning and people engagement for new and seasoned sector leaders, board directors and managers, aimed at advancing not-for-profit leadership.

  • Women Get On Board is a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. They do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.

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