Career Woman

How to go from maternity leave straight to the boardroom


It is common for women who have left the workforce to have a family to find it hard to return, especially if they’ve taken a few years off from traditional corporate employment. This difficulty can shake your confidence and instead of reaching for that next level of your career, you feel you have to settle for something less.

Few women believe that it’s possible to return from maternity leave and go straight to the boardroom. It’s not hard to see why. The pathway to securing board positions is unclear, seemingly out of reach and often, not widely promoted.

However, there is no real reason why a woman who has had a successful corporate career at executive level or CXO-level cannot secure a board position in an advisory board or non-executive director capacity.

This type of work is ideally suited to women with young families as the hours that come with board work are often manageable and predictable so it can be easy to balance both personal and professional aspects of your life.

Securing a board position does require careful planning. Here are tips for anyone, on maternity leave or not, who wants to build a board career.

1. Establish a personal brand

This is essential if you want to return to the workforce and secure a board position. First, get yourself a stand out resume that highlights the skills, experience and capabilities that you will bring to the boardroom. This should also include any previous experience reporting to the board, sitting on steering or sub-committees or any voluntary board experience.

You should also ensure you have a great corporate biography and a LinkedIn profile that complement each other. You may also want to consider having your own personal website so you are easily found online.

2. Build your board level connections

This is a priority! Invest time and effort in re-establishing meaningful relationships with the senior business community, including other board directors and key influencers in the board search area. Be strategic about the people you need to connect with. Consider joining clubs, attending events and reconnecting with existing networks and ask for introductions.

3. Engage professional support

A mentor can help you work out your key strengths, value proposition and to develop your elevator pitch. They can also help give you a much needed confidence boost and prepare you for interviews. You may need to brush up on your language skills and the way you present yourself so you can convince future employers you are ready to re-engage in the corporate and business world.

Don’t let your self-confidence get the better of you. Australian boards are crying out for fresh, diverse talent and women are well positioned to take advantage of this. There is no reason for senior women with the right experience cannot go after and land great board positions.

About Kylie Hammond

Kylie Hammond, CEO of Director Institute, is a leading board and executive search and board talent management consultant and Australia’s foremost CEO business mentor. She is passionate about helping executives create portfolio careers which can include a main employment contract, combined with not-for-profit work, board appointments, speaking and coaching or mentoring engagements.

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