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Governance & Board Careers

Thank you Governance Institute, Susan Rix and Nicole Radice for another excellent Women in Governance luncheon

Career advice: opportunities can present in the form of challenges. You should have some sort of a career plan to help you spot the opportunities and be ready to reach out and take them, you cannot put your career in someone else’s hands, take control.

Work life balance is a myth. On either side (home or work), when it's on, it’s on and there’s not much you can do about that. It’s best to strive for “work life integration”, this is more achievable. Get the job done, meet your KPIs in whatever way works for you. An organisation with a good culture will make sure that you have the right support in place i.e. someone to take over when you need to focus on home.

Be aware that a great culture for one person isn’t always a great culture for others.

On the question on how to move up the ranks in a Governance and Risk career;

Spending time as a Director on Not for Profit Boards can help greatly, but when seeking out the ‘right’ NfP you should look for something that you’re passionate about. The risks and issues are the same in the smaller organisations as the large organisations, so you need to work on your own continuous development and be qualified for the directorships. Often NfPs are more complex businesses and increasingly so due to the continuous government reforms, but offering your services to these Boards has a great impact on people’s lives.

When selecting your first Board role you absolutely MUST do your due diligence, this includes (but not limited to):

  • Talking to former directors of the organisation,

  • Finding out if you will have the ability to influence the governance process,

  • Check ASIC to understand if there is a large churn of Board directors or if the majority of the Board ‘Pale stale males’?

  • What skills are they looking for?

  • What are the other skills on the Board?

  • What skills can you offer?

When in any role including Board roles, set your own boundaries and when you get to the point where something has crossed the boundary then you must speak up. Boards aren’t for everyone and not everyone enjoys them, often the NfP roles are unpaid therefore be aware that the role will cost you in your own time and substantial effort.

Warning signs to help you spot which Boards to avoid:

Even after due diligence, be aware that a lack of participatory discussions at the Board and lots of ‘yes’ men, means that there is not true diversity, and the Board has often been handpicked. Directors are all equally liable and if you don’t agree with the decisions or you don’t like where the Board is going then resign.

“A Board is a group coming together where everyone’s opinion is valued to make a decision you can all live with” Susan Rix

There are four important points to note:

  • People coming together

  • Valuing each others' opinion

  • Making decisions

  • Decisions you can live with

On the question of diversity on Boards, its preferred to consider cognitive diversity as opposed to gender diversity. Seek diversity of thought, diversity of background. A skillset that a Chair must have is the ability to get ideas from everyone at the table.