Personal Due Diligence for Aspiring Female Directors


For female executives and professionals, pursuing a career as a director can be a professionally and personally rewarding choice. However, those planning such a transition need to review their career strategy and put in place the appropriate plans well in advance.

Somewhere around the age of 45 to 55, many people will have a change in career. This used to be called a mid-life crisis, now it is called a mid-life transition. At the mid-life point, there are typically two triggers for career transition for executives and professionals: the company many trigger it through restructuring/retrenchment or the individual may trigger it.

Whatever you do at this point will have a 5 – 10 year horizon out of the 20 years remaining of your working life. If you don’t put the appropriate career strategy in place, you can lose up to half of the productive time through missed opportunities.

Typically people have two areas to address in preparing themselves for a career as a professional non executive director (NED). The first one is financial, which includes asset protection and cashflow. The second is building their skills and relationships so they can build a portfolio of interesting and rewarding board positions.

Ideally the preparation should happen years in advance of transitioning from a full time professional to a professional board career. There is no point in ringing all your contacts the day before your role is made redundant.

It is prudent to seek professional advice about how to make this change and manage the risks to your career, income, family and lifestyle.

Start While In Your Current Role

Reviewing your career strategy and making any changes while you are still in your full time role and building your portfolio of directorships is the best approach.

5 Things You Need To Do

  1. Seek out a coach or mentor who understands and has experience in supporting people through the transition from an executive to non executive career.
  2. With your coach or mentor, work through the timing and options for your redundancy package or golden handshake – consider what is negotiable remembering that building your board career is a long cycle (you may decide to “hang on” in your current role while you actively build your NED portfolio) and how to structure your payout to provide cashflow while you are building your portfolio of directorships.
  3. Invest in your professional development. Your qualifications and experience are a given. What do you need to do to stand out and be the Chair’s first choice when a seat on the board becomes available?
  4. Invest time in your professional networks, raise your profile and learn to network – the network of your future is unlikely to be the network of your past.
  5. Seek professional financial advice, such as from a financial advisor, selecting an advisor who understands the needs of a company director to protect assets above and beyond D&O insurance.

In summary, professionals, executives and senior managers need to appreciate that a career as a non executive director requires a different approach to landing the roles. For most, it will take 12 – 18 months to secure their first NED position, and several years to build an interesting and financially rewarding portfolio of directorships. Planning early will ensure you have a strong network while building your directorship portfolio and the appropriate skills and network in place when your director career takes off.

For female executives and professionals, pursuing directorships can be a professionally and personally rewarding career choice. However, those planning such a transition need to review their career strategy and put in place the appropriate plans well in advance.