Sunday, September 23, 2012

My value as a director of a public board.

Recently, I was asked by a wonderful executive search firm to consider, well, being considered for a director position on a corporate board.  Those positions are hard to come by for folks like me, who serve on several non-profit boards but haven't broken into the ranks of public boards. 

So why my hesitancy?  The company was looking to diversity (no problem there),* but it wanted someone who could serve on the audit committee.  That's not in my wheelhouse, as they say.  Clint Eastwood said it best:  Man's got to know his limitations.

I'm smart.  But I don't have the background or education to do justice to an audit committee's work.  I know my limitations.

What would I be good at doing?  Risk management?  Check.  Board dynamics?  Check.  Compensation?  Check, check, check.

So I'm waiting, and with a lot of luck and some great friends, maybe another public board will consider me for things for which I actually can add value.

* Re diversity:  That's a tricky issue for me.  I know that some of my experiences as a woman are different from those of my male colleagues.  But many (most?) of them aren't.  Being a woman, by itself, doesn't automatically add the type of diversity that boards need.  (The fact, though, that precious few boards have any women or minorities on them is a problem.  When everyone on a board has the same background, then there's no one there to look at things from a different perspective.)  My diversity may come in part from being a woman (and that's likely the diversity factor that put me under consideration in the first place), but it's also from being an academic who studies governance and the mistakes that smart people often make.  It comes from my having had to lead some businesses in the past (two law schools before, and one now as an interim dean).  I know what paying attention to budgets means, and I know how important it is to have a strong team and talented colleagues.  I know I can add value, but only to a company that understands what I bring to the table.

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