Business of Men

3 tips to make a lasting impression in the boardroom


With gender diversity lacking in senior management, it can be daunting for women to speak out with confidence and profile themselves. All too often, women feel that they need to create a false exterior or “act like a man” to establish equal footing with men in the boardroom.

According to a 2016 Workplace Gender Equality Study by the Australian government, while women comprise 46.2% of all employees in Australia, they hold only 14.2% of chair positions. It’s predicted that Australia will not hit its target to have 30% women on boards by 2018, meaning we might have to introduce a quota.

There are many complex reasons for this. Elizabeth Proust, Chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), suggests that Australia is stuck in a “deeply cultural” mindset of disapproval towards women – and especially mothers –in senior management positions.

The AICD recently wrote to the chairs of 200 ASX companies that have no women or only one woman on their boards to find out why this is. Some responses were that women “talk too much”, “make the board meeting too long”, “aren’t reliable enough” and “we don’t have to [have women]”.

Ms Proust believes that outdated attitudes and damaging stereotypes underlies the lack of support and empathy for working mothers. This creates distinct barriers for women striving to rise through the ranks, limiting the number of women on boards.

In 2016, we have traveled a long way since the 1950s and 1960s model of mothers staying at home with the kids while their husbands work and provide for the family. However, with working mothers still facing judgement and clear gender gaps in executive roles, we have a long way yet to go.

For women and working mothers in any sector, the boardroom environment can be an intimidating place. There are several strategies that you can use to pitch effectively, speak out and be true to yourself and your business vision.
Here are my top three tips for business women to leave a lasting impression in the boardroom:

1. Be yourself

Probably the most important thing is that just because you’re in a minority, doesn’t mean you need to “act masculine” in order to establish a strong presence. Be yourself! As a woman in business, you are important – so don’t be shy about your successes!

Although presenting to a boardroom can be daunting, you need to step up and differentiate yourself and your contributions. Many business women have a tendency to be modest – especially in a room full of men – but to successfully ‘sell’ your ideas and skills, you need to talk confidently about your achievements.

The best way to do this is to be authentic and true to yourself and your vision. Be bold, assertive and comfortable talking about your achievements. If you truly believe in yourself and your ability to bring others on board with your vision, they will believe in it, too. Be yourself and your passion will shine through, engaging and inspiring other business women and men alike.

2. Don’t be afraid to speak out and have a voice

Speaking out in the boardroom is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and wowing the crowd with your knowledge and expertise.

To do this, it’s crucial to articulate your point of view with confidence. However attractive an idea looks on paper, it’s the delivery of your pitch to the board that will truly ‘sell’ your idea. Articulate your ideas clearly, confidently and concisely. Stand tall and proud as a women leader, and don’t sell yourself short – your successes and ideas matter!

3. Be prepared: know your material

To ensure that you feel confident in your ability to speak up and profile yourself, firstly know your material. Be prepared, understand your audience, and tailor your pitch accordingly. A deep understanding and clear articulation of your key business outcomes and vision is vital.

Tailor your presentation to the requirements and expectations of your audience, and you will ensure that the board understands who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, and how your unique vision can help to solve a problem. In this way, you will drive an emotional connection and deeper engagement with the boardroom.

About Gemma Manning

Gemma Manning is a serial entrepreneur and strategic marketing professional. She is the Founder and Managing Director of Manning and Co, a corporate marketing consultancy based in Sydney, and Gemstar Technology, a launching pad for Australian tech startups in South-East Asia, via Singapore as a gateway.

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