Boards Are Overlooking Qualified Women. Here’s How to Fix That

Today’s gap between the demand and supply of female directors exists for two basic reasons: boards are overlooking a pool of female talent that is in plain sight, and CEOs are missing the single best way to prepare women to serve on boards.

Consider the reality that most women executives have spent their careers moving up in a single functional silo: HR. This came into sharp focus for Ram a few years ago during a talk to some 400 women in Washington, D.C. When asked who among them was in HR, almost everyone raised their hand. A career track in one function deepens a person’s expertise but historically hasn’t done much to broaden their view or to build their business savvy. That’s why many old-time board nominating committees tend to think of HR leaders as masters of administrivia and not as business leaders and strategic thinkers.

But things have changed, and perception should too. CHROs of big companies are now deeply involved in planning the company’s future. They understand the high-level business issues, and because they attend some if not all board meetings, they know how to work with a board. At the same time, their expertise in compensation, culture, recruiting, and other high-level people issues is itself increasingly valuable as boards and managements prioritize talent.

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