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Guest opinion: How to better integrate women on your board


By Kate Banasiak | Past president, Lead Like a Lady 

Boards are putting more and more of a focus on how they can better diversify themselves, which often involves engaging more women, but starting this process without a strategy can cause bumps in the road. 

To help, Lead Like a Lady put together three easy steps for helping make sure you find success in further engaging women on your leadership team.

1.Don’t make it a token position
I get asked all the time about creating positions for YPs, women, etc. While I think it is amazing for boards to be thinking more strategically about the diversity of who participates, I DO NOT think it’s helpful to place someone on a board just because it helps check a box. The most successful, diverse boards work hard to identify key players within their cause and then help nurture that path to leadership. Once that individual gets on the board, they then have better luck gaining respect among their peers who are already serving your organization. 

2.Set the commitment expectations well in advance
I recently served on a board that kept shifting around the time and the week of their board meeting. While moving back by 30 minutes seemed like no big deal to most, it meant that I couldn’t get to preschool in time for pickup and kept having to do the last-minute child care shuffle. After bringing this up several times, I finally ended up just showing up with my daughter at the last meeting so I would not have to miss it. I know other women who have to drop off at three different schools, or are responsible for identifying opening market trends so mornings may be out for them. Women, especially working moms, want to participate but need to be able to depend on a schedule.   

While you can’t accommodate everyone’s schedule, you can acknowledge that we live in a world where people tend to have more on their plates than ever. You can easily counter this problem by setting and sticking to expectations for when the board will meet. Talk this through in advance, make sure it’s a good fit with their current workload, and if it does not work right now, maybe see if there is somewhere else you can use their talents.

3.Make sure there is value in participating
Men and women tend to serve for different reasons. Women often participate to get better connected to the cause or the individuals on the board. Men might look at it as more of a transactional relationship. Neither party is wrong in their motivation, but knowing the “WHY” behind why they are there will help you tie them in to the work. Have a board dinner or have key influencers within your organization take your new members out to coffee, give them the background on keys to success and make connections so they walk in the door feeling a part of a team.

Kate Banasiak is president and CEO of Diversified Management Services. She graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in business management. She is past president of Lead Like a Lady and volunteers for several other civic organizations. Banasiak is a 2012 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute and a 2014 graduate of Goldman Sachs 10KSB Small Business, and has also been recognized in the Business Record’s 40 Under Forty for 2013. Kate can be reached via email

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