Have you ever thought about joining a board?

This is the question that Fiona Hathorn, Managing Director of Women on Boards asked the Women in Journalism audience at a special talk on Monday 10 June.

Fiona talked about why joining a board is so valuable for your career and why a journalist could be a valuable board member.

Contributing to a board, whether that be for a charity, a school,  a public sector body or a FTSE 100 company, is about bringing your own knowledge, experience, and common sense to the table.

Women in Journalism members gather for the talk with a view of London in the background

Many people are either put off from joining boards because they don’t think they have the necessary experience or simply do not know where to go to apply. You do not need extensive industry knowledge and contacts to be a Non-Executive Director (NED) on a board. These roles are about oversight over an organisation, not the  day-to-day running of it: “noses in, fingers out,” said Fiona.

Anyone can apply. It’s about showing how you will benefit that company or organisation, your “board added value skills”. The role will not be about  everyday journalistic skills, though they may come in useful, but using your transferable skills such as risk-taking, leadership, independent thinking, challenging and “star gazing”.  This may sound daunting but a CV workshop (see below) can help.

Women on Boards was started up in 2012 to provide information, encouragement and connections to help women get to the top of their chosen paths and become NEDs, trustees or governors on boards.

Fiona shares her admiration for Christine Lagarde

Here are Fiona’s inspiring tips:

Directorship gives you a point of difference on your CV

If you and another candidate have a similar career history, but you’re the one with NED experience, guess who will be chosen?

Being on a board can be hugely beneficial to your career because you get to see how business operates at that level, get involved in company-wide changes, and make connections for life. And potential new employers will realise that.

You develop career and leadership skills

Being on board not only builds your professional knowledge, it gives you some transferable skills. You are learning about strategy, problem-solving, the latest technology, and the biggest threat or challenge to the company or organisation you are on the board of. You are working collaboratively with other directors too.

The event took place in the fantastic Wiggin LLP building

It helps you build marketing and industry knowledge

It can be hugely beneficial to understand a new industry. If you are a journalist and you are on the board for a hospital, you may learn things about the health sector that you can use in your career. You will certainly gain contacts who could be useful for future stories.

You are engaged in your community at a leadership level

Being on a board is also a way to give back to your community. Fiona said: “there is a board out there for everyone” because there are so many options out there. You could be on the board for a university and help them see why it’s important to focus on diversity, or a for a hospital and show them how to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Skills you need to be a board member are different to when you are applying for a job

You build career resilience

You can add variety to your experience and re-ignite your spark for professional work by joining a board. If you feel it’s time for a career change, you could start by joining a board and getting some new experience. You might also want to join a board to simply strengthen your experience and add to your skillset, preparing you well whatever the future holds.

Continuity of your CV if you take a career break

Many mothers and fathers on parental leave will choose to join a board because it keeps them professionally engaged without being an overwhelming demand on their time. You stay connected with people and continue learning important workplace skills, because returning to work after a break can be very daunting.

It’s a chance to explore the idea of a portfolio career as a non-executive director

It’s important to know that one board position will probably not pay you very well, if at all, unless you are on a specific board. However, some people decide they would like a portfolio career as a non-executive director and, as long as you apply to boards that do pay something, this can be rewarding and interesting.

Fiona spoke all about why joining a board is important and how you can get to be on one

How to get involved

If you’ve never considered joining a board before, why not now? It’s never too early or late to do so and Women on Boards can help you through the process, from getting started on choosing where to apply, to getting your CV right – which will need to be very different from your current version.

Women on Boards is free to join and you can sign up here as well as find out about all the membership levels. You do need to subscribe and pay if you want access to the vacancy board or the 1-on-1 support.

What do you think a director actually does?

If you’re not a member you can still attend its range of events , just at a slightly higher price.

Fiona pointed out that, if you’re really keen on joining but cannot afford it at this time, why not approach your employer, explain to them why joining a board will add to your skillset and therefore benefit the company, then ask if they will pay for you.

Women in Journalism would like to thank Women on Boards and Fiona for delivering a fantastic seminar. We would also like to thank Wiggin LLP for hosting us in their London offices and our members and guests for coming.

Please do sign up to be a Women in Journalism member if you are interested in coming to future events, it is £45 a year and free for students, though they will be charged for individual events.

Our next event is our big Summer Party celebrating Women in Journalism’s 25th birthday at the fabulous Rosewood London in Holborn on 12 July. Buy tickets now as it will sell out.

We will  be kickstarting an exciting autumn programme on 10 October with our next In Conversation event, with Channel 4’s Cathy Newman. Book here.

Useful links 

7  Reasons why being on a board is good for you => https://www.womenonboards.net/reference-items/resource-centre-articles/7-reasons