Many executive women who have left the workforce to have a family consider a range of flexible and part-time traditional work options when re-entering the workforce. However, very few consider the possibility of returning to the boardroom as a viable work option, as the pathway to securing board opportunities is very unclear, seemingly out of reach and not widely promoted.
The reality is there is no real reason why executive director-level female candidates or CXO-level candidates who have had a successful corporate career cannot return to working life as a board director in an advisory board or non-executive director capacity. Going forward, this type of work may suit women with a young family, as the hours associated with board work are manageable and predictable, making balancing being a mum and board director a real option to consider.
Taking time out to have a family needs to be recognised and supported at all levels of our business community. Many women who have left the workforce to have a family know how hard it is to return, especially if you have taken a few years off from traditional corporate employment.
But how can you make Baby to Boardroom a reality?
Difficulties re-entering the workforce following maternity leave into meaningful employment can be minimised through careful planning and following these key steps.
1. Refresh your corporate brand
You cannot expect to come back into the workforce at board director level without a strong personal brand. You will need a start with a first-class board resume showcasing the skills, experience and capabilities you bring to the boardroom. Don’t forget to mention any prior experience reporting to the board, sitting on steering or sub-committees and any volunteer board experience.
Your personal branding materials should include a board resume, a corporate biography and a LinkedIn profile that compliments each other. Embrace social media and have a personal website and Twitter profile.
2. Get connected at board director level
You will need to get reconnected into the business community at a very senior level and will need to invest time and effort in re-establishing meaningful relationships with other board directors and key influencers in the board search process.
This requires a clear strategy about the types of roles and connections that you need to have a successful board career. You might need to join clubs, attend events, get back in touch with your network and ask for introductions. Make this a priority!
3. Undergo formal interview preparation
Often we find female candidates returning to the workforce after an extensive break lack confidence and clarity around their key value proposition. I often hear “mummy speak” during interview preparation sessions and there needs to be a switch in your language, pitch and focus to convince future employers that you are truly ready to re-engage in the corporate and business world again.
Engage professional help and support to work out your key strengths, value proposition and develop your elevator pitch. A board-ready mentoring program is an ideal way to get the support required to execute your move from maternity leave to securing your first board appointment.
Australian boards are in desperate need to fresh, diverse talent and women are well positioned to take advantage of this. Don’t let your self-confidence get the better of you, there is no reason for senior women with the right experience can’t secure great board positions.