So you want to be a board member?
What can LGBT+ leaders aspiring to board roles do to prepare and position themselves

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting our first OutLeadership Quorum Board Fit virtual event for aspiring board members. While we previously held a series of events across the World focused on LGBT+ leadership at the board level, it was the first time we held such a session virtually.

Launched in 2015, QUORUM is the global leader for improving LGBT+ representation in the boardroom. We’ve built a network of over 900 LGBT+ leaders interested in board leadership, created advisories for key companies in governance guidelines, and engaged with policy leaders across the country to help foster change. In 2018, QUORUM introduced its LGBT+ Board Diversity Guidelines to leading companies.

The session featured Susan Angele, a Senior Advisor at KPMG’s Board Leadership Center, which provides a powerful combination of resources and insight to help boards deepen. KPMG has been a QUORUM sponsor since the program launched.

Susan gave an overview of the responsibilities and changing landscape of the modern corporate board. Citing the current COVID-19 crisis, she highlighted that Boards are currently intense and demanding commitments. She discussed Board responsibilities and the differences between publicly-traded, private, and not-for-profit organizations. Susan also reiterated the importance of Board diversity: not surprisingly studies show over and over that if you take a diverse group and compare it to a completely homogenous group, the decisions coming from the diverse groups are better.

Her remarks were followed by a presentation by Matt Fust. Matt, QUORUM Senior Advisor for Our Leadership. Matt serves on the boards of directors of several life science companies.

Matt gave four concrete tips to aspiring Board members:

  1. Join a non-profit board. Matt Furst discussed how having experience on a nonprofit board sounds the right signal corporate board service. He suggested going further than just seating on the Board but also seek a seat on a specific committee such as the audit committee or a capital campaign committee. He indicated that search firms, such as executive search firm Spencer Stuart, view those commitments as critical foundational experiences. As an added bonus, there has never been a better time to be of service to your community than during the current crisis. On a personal note, I now serve on the board of 8 non-profits from Housing Work to the Institute of Current World Affairs and believe these have been transformational experiences;
  2. Be visible about your interest. Matt gave concrete suggestions to ensure that interested companies and search firms can find you. He suggested as an example indicating on one’s LinkedIn overview section [Read: 6 Simple LinkedIn Tips for Aspiring Board Directors] that one is looking for board membership. He also suggested that aspiring board members may want to post their resume on online databases. Finally, Matt discussed having a “board résumé” different from one’s job hunting resume highlighting one’s Board readiness;
  3. Define your niche. While Board members tend to have CEO, C-suite, General Counsel or financial backgrounds, Matt suggested having a specific profile can be of interest to Boards: whether it is by positioning yourself as a social media expert, a marketing guru or a big data expert;
  4. Network. Excelling in your domain of expertise, launching your own “marketing campaign” is not enough Matt told us, networking is key to get on the radar screen of Boards. Both Matt and Susan highlighted opportunities to attend events such as the ones held by the National Association of Corporate Directors [Read: five considerations when networking for a Board position].

Out Leadership will continue advocating for greater representation of LGBT+ people on Boards not only because we deserve our fair share of seats but also because being in decision-making bodies is crucial to ending discrimination against LGBT+ people in business. As I mentioned in my introductory remarks: “If you are not at the table, you are definitely available on that menu and we all know what happens to what is on the menu. You get devoured”

As a next step, OutLeadership with support from Senior Advisor Matt Fust is scheduling additional QUORUM Board Fit virtual events with a focus on specific industries. We are also working with Gaingels around their ongoing efforts to place LGBT+ individuals on the boards of their portfolio companies. Stay tuned!

Further reading on the topic in Out Leadership Insights:

Fair representation might lead to better outcomes in times of crisis (April 7, 2020)

COVID-19 magnifies demographic challenges in the Boardroom (March 24, 2020)

LGBT representation on corporate boards: moving from the menu to the table (March 16, 2020)

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