Lean In – Boardroom Edition

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March 5, 2013 – My Broads Circle Keynote: Broads on Boards Event www.broadscircle.com

LABJ April 2013


Welcome to the 4th annual Broads on Boards program:  Women on Corporate Boards

Hi, I’m Fay Feeney, my day job is CEO of Risk for Good where we equip CEOs and their boards to govern in this new mobile, transparent, connected world by bring digital intelligence to the competitive uncertainty in the equity markets.

I’m also the President of the Broads on Board program for Broads Circle which is an executive-level networking group with a focus on MONEY and POWER for WOMEN.

The mission for Broads Circle is to connect senior level business women. We believe that successful, impactful, powerful people have strong networks.

They draw on these networks in driving revenue and growing capital for themselves and their ventures.

At Broads Circle we talk exclusively about issues related to Money and Power for women.

So let me begin with some action items for you to think about as we talk about corporate board service.  I’m out seeking a corporate board appointment and am using these guiding principles in my search:

Action Items:

1. The world is changing before our eyes; use your influence where you have it – with clients, in your spending, where you invest and with family & friends.  You never know who in your network has board opportunities. Stay connected – if you are in the flow of learning about board opportunities let me know.

 2. Luck favors the prepared – stay informed on corporate governance.  You can join me on Twitter #Corpgov or consider attending a NACD Director Professionalism course.  We’ll have a session August 15-16, in Newport Beach.  I’m proud to be a NACD Leadership Fellow.

 My corporate governance education builds confidence for the Nomination/Governance committee, is proxy ready and more important shows I’m serious about building company value.

  3.  Narrow your boardroom focus. Think about board service opportunities starting with private companies and public companies on the Wilshire 5000.  The F500 have plenty of people vying for those seats.

For example, let’s look at the 79 S&P 500-listed financial services firms, these provide a window into the governance trends affecting these companies.

Among the 2012 trends:

  • Financial services firms welcomed more new directors; 53 new independent directors joined S&P 500 financial services boards in 2012 compared to 45 in 2011.
  • The profile of new directors has evolved, with the boards of financial services firms adding more women and financial services executives and fewer private equity professionals and retired CEOs. Of the new directors joining financial services boards in 2012, 30% are women.  Do the math, 30% of 53.

Are my action items for focus on private companies and the Wilshire 5000 starting to make sense?

  • These seats are coveted for a number of reasons including the average director compensation increased by 7% from $200,519 in 2011 to $214,852 in 2012.

In Feb 2013 PwC surveyed directors for priorities and challenges facing today’s directors.  Even in the age of social technology what remains true for the boardroom is that Directors continue to look to other board members for candidates.

Nearly 91% of directors rely on other board members’ recommendations for new candidates.

Common sense tells us that boards can broaden the search without compromising on the skills and attributes required by looking to new or different sources when seeking candidates.

My search for a corporate board seat has me spending time with corporate directors, CEOs, CFOs & Corporate Counsel.  The data confirms this is a smart strategy and I’m sticking to it.

But Where Is The Demand?

We can’t pretend we live in an equal society when the centers of power are predominately held by wealthy white men or that the women currently in the boardroom can transform the workplace for all other women.  Trickle down change is not working even here in California where almost half (44.8 percent) of California’s companies have no women directors.

I’m a STEM gal (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) so I like to have a problem where I can solve for X.  So I accept we need to look at building demand.

I’m not seeing the “old saw” diversity arguments that it improves shareholder performance, helps companies access the widest talent pool, ensures they are more responsive to the market and provides overall stronger corporate governance is not fueling demand.

I call these “the eat your vegetables” argument – we all know it is a good idea but find it easier to do when they are pureed in the recipe.

Let’s find another way to have this conversation – I think of Peter Drucker who said:

Communication is not saying something, communication is being heard.

 In preparation for tonight I watched the PBS series Makers: Women Who Make America  in search of inspiration from how the women in the 1960s were a force to reshape stereotypes and the relationships between men and women in the most fundamental ways.  Those were the days.

I watched it through the lens of advancing women in business only to see how Phyllis Schlafy organized women conservatives to shift the Equal Rights Amendment focus to non business issues like reproductive rights.

Senator Pat Schroeder brought her sense of humor when asked: How she could be a mother and a congresswoman?  She answered “I have a brain and I have a uterus and they both work.”

Fast forward fifty plus years and think about the age we are living in.  It is one of unprecedented opportunity where the more you know about yourself that more you can be successful.  The boardroom is a big modernizing challenge for business and their investors.

In the words of rapper ICE T – “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Here’s is my playbook for getting a board seat:

  • Know My Strengths
  • Have Clarity on Where I Belong
  • Know What I Should Contribute
  • Spend time with People in the Game – in real life and virtually

Yes, we have much work to do to see more women on corporate boards. Tonight we’ll look at some of the options so in closing let me share more Peter Drucker wisdom that I think is helpful in looking for opportunities:

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” 

Lean in – Boardroom Edition and change the music from James Brown’s  “This is a man’s world” to “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.


  1. Amen, sister! Perfect timing given it’s Women’s History Month. Well said!

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