What do you do when you come up to the proverbial “immovable object?” If you’re driving somewhere and come across construction barring your progress along that route, what do you do? Such a simple example offers many lessons for women who would aspire to corporate boards or women who advocate on behalf of adding women to corporate boards.
Do you stop and yell at the workers, expecting them to cease and desist and let you through as you had planned your trip? Do you insist that “they” be the ones to change? Do you expect “them” to make your journey easy? Do you embarrass them if they don’t agree with your plans? This is the philosophy of many women director advocates who believe that shaming directors into bringing more women on boards is a valid strategy. Expecting others to dictate diversity mandates through quotas or entitlements is based on a presumption that the only way to the desired goal is “if and only if” society or culture or men change.
An alternative strategy is to wait. Bide one’s time until society or culture or men change and welcome women into the boardroom. Women who select to sit on large numbers of non-profits or government commissions are filling their time with “meaningful” roles until such time as they can be welcomed into the power structure of business boards.
A third strategy is “to opt out.” That is the euphemistic equivalent of “to quit.” Men describe the quit option as “to wimp out” so as to discourage themselves from doing it. Women use the more delicate form so as to allow themselves to feel good about that choice. Either way, it still means to take your toys and go home.
These are not very attractive options for those who truly wish to reach the destination: serving on a board role as a growth or governance advisor, to help an enterprise reach its full potential, to collaborate with like-minded intelligent people in growing a business successfully.
For those for whom the destination is the priority, there is the option of “find another path.” The destination is so worthy that she very much wants to get there. Overcoming the obstacle is part of what makes the end result valued. Such women know they have the intelligence and a capacity to learn. They are focused on finding the paths to the destination -- around, over, under or through apparent obstacles.
A woman who seeks a board role recognizes that there are others like her who will advise, collaborate, and help her find her way. She has to search them out and persuade them to answer her questions about alternative routes. They may be men or women. She has to show them she is worthy of their attention -- that she has value to bring to the process.
These women are learning that alternative board roles available, today, include smaller, private, and pre-IPO business enterprises. Many of these are just receiving capital investments for the first time. Many are women-owned or co-owned. They need specific expertise which they can get from advisors or investors.
In the first three months of 2012, NewsOnWomen.com reported that 25 women-owned/co-owned enterprises received a total of $164.7 M in seed, angel, or early-stage investments. The average was $6.6 M per company. Especially interesting was that many of these firms received funds from pools of investor groups, rather than the traditional individual venture capital investment.
Enterprises were primarily in the mobile or digital application space and in bio-pharm/-medical industry sectors. Eighteen (72%) of the deals were for companies based in
. The bulk of these were in the Menlo Park/San Francisco hub, but three enterprises were from California Los Angeles, although the investors typically were not from Southern California.
On average, we would estimate that up to 6 directors are added to each entrepreneurial board, which means this level of new investment represented a new director candidate pool of 150 nominations. Intelligent women are now focused on what they need to do to prepare to serve on this type of emerging enterprise in today’s digital, mobile, highly scientific business marketplace. Governance at this level includes strategic advisory services to enable entrepreneurs to capture markets, overcome competition, and reach into the global economy. Sharp and savvy women leaders in business today are focused on this destination rather than yesterday’s obstacles to their progress and success.