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Looking for your first board role? 6 tips to get you started

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Diana Wilde 10 April 2021
In the UAE, the regulator, the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA), has stipulated that women must take at least one board seat on every listed company board.
Right now, women currently hold only 3.5 percent of these board seats.
The gap between the nation’s aspirations and reality presents a huge opportunity for aspiring women board directors. With the right planning, you can get a head start and position yourself favourably for board opportunities.

1. Plan your career

If you are interested to develop a successful board career, start by planning your career trajectory in the company you’re with. Make sure your HR teams are aware of your career aspirations and ask them to support you with charting your career development path. You also need to consider the kind of board you aspire to be a director with — aside from common board skillsets such as governance and financial acumen, different boards require expertise on specific areas.
Corporate boards often look for prior board experience, and relevant C-suite experience. This is especially true for the boards of large companies with significant fiduciary duties.

2. Get the right experience

Volunteering on a board of a Hot-for-profit, academic institution or similar organisations can help to get a head start on your board career.
These opportunities will enable you to develop essential board skills and gain the experience that will positively contribute towards future board appointments. Additionally, this serves as a great way to build your network — you never know who is volunteering beside you.

3. Keep up with ‘in-demand skills

Increasingly, boards have started appointing individuals with specialist skillsets in directorship roles. Areas such as AI, big data, cyber security and digitisation are only some of the new, in-demand skills that boards are looking for, in response to a changing digital-first landscape. Of note, executive management experience and skills in areas such as risk management, mergers and acquisitions continue to be beneficial for board appointments.
Corporate boards often look for prior board experience, and relevant C-suite experience. This is especially true for the boards of large companies with significant fiduciary duties.

4. Monitor new board appointment opportunities

Board appointments typically follow an annual cycle, and anyone aspiring for a board role should research upcoming opportunities through available resources. The catch? You must be prepared to put in the time and effort to scour through corporate governance, or similar, disclosures to source this information in case it is not readily available.

5. Put yourself out there

Don’t assume that people are aware of your board aspirations. Make sure you tell relevant individuals, such as those who currently serve on boards, so they can recommend you where possible. You can also explore opportunities within your own organisation that allow you to volunteer for internal committees, such as `youth councils’ etc. Find a mentor or coach, preferably within your company, who can help with furthering your career aspirations. Also, make sure to grab networking opportunities — whether professional mixers, industry events or training and development sessions.

6. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Whether an interview for a potential role or your first board meeting, don’t underestimate the need to prepare for it. Specifically, ahead of your first board meeting, make sure you have taken the time to thoroughly read and understand all the provided material, and any supplementary information such as company reports, disclosures etc. It may also be wise to acquaint yourself with associated board bylaws and meeting protocols, so you are not caught off-guard.