For many, a corporate directorship is a career capstone. But attaining one is far from easy. No one can say for sure how to get on a corporate board, but many people point to two routes: the first is to break into the “right” network and the second is to seek a progression of board seats that begins with, for example, a seat on a not-for-profit or community board and eventually results in appointment to a corporate board.
Both paths are problematic — neither is particularly transparent or relies on objective measures and given that many boards are stubborn bastions of white masculinity, pursuing the “right” network can be fraught, especially for women and other diverse candidates. Indeed, our research reinforces that concern: many boards still rely on their own (mostly white, mostly male) networks to fill seats.
There’s a different way — one that is more measurable, controllable and offers greater transparency. It starts with a focus on skills. Although many boards continue to select new members from their own networks, our research suggests that more are beginning to implement objective processes to select members based on the skills and attributes that boards need to be effective. Our 2012 survey, in partnership with WomenCorporateDirectors and Heidrick & Struggles, of more than 1,000 corporate directors across the globe, found that 48% of the boards had a formal process of determining the combination of skills and attributes required for their board and, therefore, for new directors.