How women can achieve board membership

Earlier this year, the Hampton-Alexander Review found FTSE 350 companies have made some progress in the drive for gender-diverse boards and leadership. The Review is an independent review body which monitors the gender diversity of FTSE 350 boards, with companies aiming to achieve 33% female representation.

At Bayes, we are committed to supporting women in business by offering them the training, support and experience they need to develop into leaders. Our Global Women’s Leadership Programme (GWLP) provides skills workshops, events about women in leadership and scholarships.

In addition to receiving a scholarship, each Scholar also joins the GWLP Executive Board, which for many students is their first experience of board membership.

We spoke to Carol Sergeant CBE, Chair of the GWLP Council, about her advice to women interested in taking up board roles and about the steps boards can take to increase their diversity.

Advice for women

Share your interest

“Be active and make clear your interest in having a board position. This should include investing in writing a good CV, connecting with headhunters and getting people to support you with strong references.

Telling your employer you would like a non-executive position outside your own organisation for development purposes (the better employers encourage, help and support this) as well as making clear your ambitions within the organisation. Being shy will get you nowhere!”

Find a mentor

“Get yourself one or more mentors to help you. Choose them carefully. People will love to help— it’s very flattering to be asked to mentor!”

Begin your training

“Get yourself as much board ready training as you can. There are huge numbers of events and training available in London and elsewhere, much of it free and now also available to attend digitally.”


“Think widely and grab every opportunity-for example being on the board of even a small charity can be a great experience.

Be clear about what you can offer a board in terms of your capabilities and experience.

Network, network, network, including joining one of the many free networks of aspiring board directors.”

Advice for boards wanting to be more diverse

Seek out diverse board members

“It is no longer an option for boards to not be diverse— you simply won’t succeed unless you can attract the best talents and a group of people knowledgeable and representative of the society you operate in, of which 50% are women!

Diversity brings better thinking and decision quality and has been shown to significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of risk analysis by having a diversity of thinking and experiences. There is very significant research showing this.

If you look hard enough and creatively you will find the diverse talents; they are out there. For example, there are a lot of very successful female CEOs in the charity sector. Running a successful and impactful charity is running a business with very clear social purpose objectives which is useful on any board.

Look for skillsets and not just senior positions. For example there is still a shortage of female CEOs but there are very many talented women at senior levels who would make great board members.”

Mentor your own colleagues

“Mentor your own female executives so that you can create a pipeline for other boards.”

Consider quotas

“Quotas are sometimes seen as controversial. I sit on the board of Danske Bank (one of the two biggest Nordic banks) and spoke to my Norwegian colleague who noted the country 40% board female quota has had a very significant positive impact on board effectiveness.

Find out more about the GWLP.