Yesterday, two of Australia’s most prominent business leaders – Holly Kramer and David Gonski – shared their insights on “getting board ready” at a breakfast in Sydney to 50 women.
The event was organised by the Senior Women in Media and Marketing group, SWIMM. The breakfast was held at Doltone House in Elizabeth Street and sponsored by We Are Social.
Moderated by SKY NEWS anchor Laura Jayes, the speakers gave practical advice on topics including the qualities and capabilities that make a good board member and how to kick off a board career.
Kramer moved into a board-focused career 18 months ago after being CEO of Best & Less. She is on the boards of Nine Entertainment Co, Australia Post, AMP and Woolworths. Gonski has a broad range of involvement with the government, education and community sectors. He is chairman of Coca-Cola Amatil and the ANZ Bank and Chancellor of the University of UNSW.
Gonski said whether you were ready or not to join a board was a personal decision. For those taking the step and embarking on a board role, he recommended Australian Institute of Directors’ courses. “And I would look around to broaden your mind, your contacts and your experience. If you’ve been a CEO, that’s a big tick, but it’s not vital.”
He talked about joining charity boards as being a good way to get into a board career.
During the breakfast he spoke about the qualities women brought to boards, including being hardworking, having different views from men and somehow having “a more incisive view about the people employed”.
Holly Kramer talked about the challenge of switching from running an organisation to taking on a non-executive role and about how it was “easy to be cocooned on a board”. She said making the change required the would-be board member to be ready to relinquish executive responsibility and advise and oversee, rather than being hands-on with execution.
Both speakers discussed the importance of having an affiliation with the boards you joined. Holly Kramer advised taking it slowly and making sure you had a good fit with the organisation. “Identify whether it’s an industry you’re interested in. It makes it a lot easier if you have a bit of a passion,” Gonski said.
They also stressed the importance of conducting due diligence before joining a board, advising aspiring board members to build relationships with professional services and search firms to assist with this.
Welcoming guests to the breakfast, SWIMM co-founder, We Are Social MD Suzie Shaw, said she had organised the event in response to the talk about problems surrounding women in leadership and specifically, there not being enough women on boards.
“Personally, I’m tired of the talk. Instead of more talking about the problem, we wanted to work on the solution,” Shaw said.