CEO of Landelahni Recruitment Group, Sandra Burmeister gives tips on how to blaze your way to the top
Much has been said about the dire shortage of women on company boards. The 2012 Businesswomen's Association Census released in May found that women make up only 17% of all board positions in South Africa.
Since then, several initiatives aimed at addressing this disparity have been launched. But CEO of Landelahni Recruitment Group, Sandra Burmeister advises women to take their fate into their own hands and ensure they are eligible to comfortably take a seat on the board of directors of companies.
“The process takes time. There is no quick way to the top, but here are a few tips,” Burnmeister says.
Develop the right capabilities. The critical success factors for a non-executive director on a JSE-listed company or state-owned enterprise board are relevant work experience, deep industry knowledge and specialist skills, commercial experience in a large company and being informed on issues of corporate governance.
Focus your attention on the success of your team. That is a cornerstone for a successful career and, ultimately, a place on the board.
Have the confidence to speak out on the hard issues. This demonstrates your ability to approach complex issues strategically and develops your credibility as a leader.
Be self-assured in presenting your skills, experience and capabilities.
Find yourself a mentor in the workplace who can assist in your advancement to senior positions and who may also serve as a career champion and sponsor.
Use strategic networks so the "right people" can see you in action making a valuable contribution. Network, network, network. Directorships are often based on personal recommendations, so make yourself known at a senior level at work and related areas, seek out networking opportunities with former CEOs and directors. Visibility is critical, because if people know you, you will appear on their radar when a company is looking to fill a position.
Expand your executive experience by running company subsidiaries or divisions.
Take a seat on a small company board. This will give you valuable experience in governance and also heighten your visibility.
Get experience by volunteering to sit on the board of a non-profit organisation devoted to a cause you feel passionate about. Sitting on local authority and municipal boards is also a way of broadening your business and decision-making skills.
Be a leader: Initiate important schemes and special projects at work and in the community and take leadership positions on the non-profit boards you join. That’s the best way to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
In the final analysis, an extraordinary board career depends on three critical elements: playing to your strengths, setting your passions free, and fitting in comfortably with the culture and work ethos of your chosen organisation.