The Top Ten Myths Keeping Women Off Boards of Directors --- and How To Debunk Them

Elizabeth Ghaffari, President of Champion Boards, was the guest speaker at the January 18, 2006 Organization of Women Executives (OWE) luncheon in Los Angeles, CA. Her topic was, "The Top Ten Myths Keeping Women Off Boards of Directors -- and How To Debunk Them".

The number of women on boards of directors has increased barely 0.5% a year for over the past decade according to national surveys. Elizabeth argued that this slow rate of progress is due, in part, to the myths held by women as well as men. Then, in Letterman fashion, she listed the Top Ten Myths and, for each one, described alternative ways women could look for board-level opportunities.

Here is a sampling:

  • Myth: All that's needed is a polished resume, some public speaking and to know the CEO.
      Reality: Boards increasingly chose their own directors, and they are looking for competence and independent directors able to deliver results.

  • Myth: Board roles are too risky.
      Reality: Corporate responsibilities are clearer today, in the post-Sarbanes-Oxley setting; much more training is available, boards have more and direct access to better consultants.

  • Myth: Accounting or a Finance degree is enough for a woman to get on a Board.
      Reality: Boards need a mix of expertise and backgrounds to meet their governance responsibilities. Boards are not looking for just another bean counter.

  • Myth: There are not enough women in the pipeline.
      Reality: Women have achieved parity or better in upper management; yet, women have not yet pushed their way through to the top at the same rates. It's not a case of "waiting to be invited to the dance." Women have to actively pursue the opportunities - perhaps at entrepreneurial boards, at community bank boards, and at other for-profit growth businesses.

    And, finally, the #1 myth held by women about board service:
  • Myth: Nonprofit board experience is the path to for-profit Boards.
      Reality: Public, corporate Boards are looking for, and need, real for-profit, operational, or profit-loss experience. The skill sets required to serve on nonprofit or government boards or commissions are not readily transferable to public corporate boards.

Elizabeth told the group that the way to increase the number of women on Boards is for women to grab the new wealth of information and education they need to enhance their performance on the job, in the corporation or as entrepreneurs. One key example she suggested, for women near the top corporate levels, was to learn about the Board at your company, develop a track record of solving important problems within the corporation and be prepared to present your results to the Board yourself.

More and better director training also is available, today. New disclosure requirements of the SEC, the exchanges, and the accounting industry all benefit the women who seeks, first, to understand and then to succeed. Women can learn what skills are needed for board service, then prepare and take the steps necessary to refine those skills and present themselves persuasively.

Resources available for women interested in Corporate Boards:
For a host of other resources, see: Elizabeth's web site at