How changes in Board trends are opening opportunities for diverse Non-Executive Directors

The presence of women in Non-Executive Directors roles is incredibly important for any business. Research shows that women in leadership positions not only improve a company’s gender diversity but also substantially improve how companies operate and perform.

According to BoardEx, current representation of women on Boards in the FTSE 350 is at 37.6%. With recent recommendations from GOV.UK for FTSE-companies to increase their Board and Leadership gender representation to a minimum of 40% by 2025, the demand for women in NED roles is likely to increase.

We have seen significant changes in the search requirements for Non-Executive Directors over the last 18 months. If you’re interested making a career change into Board seats as a Non-Executive Director, we have covered these key trends below alongside some advice on how they may help you to stand out.

Diversity of thought

Boards have traditionally been the domain of white men, but alongside the recent focus on increasing gender, representation from other diverse groups is also on the rise. Following the murder of George Floyd and the BLM movement in 2020, companies have woken up to the more general lack of representation at Board level.

As noted in the recent Parker report, there are 89 ethnically diverse Non-Executive Directors in FTSE 100 as of March 2022, with women of colour taking up 49% of those seats.

This shows that many businesses are truly focused on bringing more diversity of thought into the boardroom, and your unique perspective and background may make you more attractive as a potential addition to the Board – but only if you are open about this as a strength.

Historically too many diverse individuals felt forced to play down their differences in the hope to be considered for the role against other candidates. Today, forward-thinking organisations are more open to embracing a different approach to that already represented amongst existing Board members. Therefore understanding your own unique path and bringing out the skills it has taught you, might help solve the blind spots within an existing Board and open them up to important new perspectives.

Boards under the spotlight

The role and value of the Board is increasingly under the microscope with more questions being asked around selections and effectiveness. There is pressure for greater transparency on Board decisions and activity, and as a result companies are being very cautious over the “right” Board hires.

This all means that you can now expect to face a more rigorous process than before, and this makes preparation the key. Before applying for Non-Executive Directors role, ensure that you thoroughly research the company that you’re interested in to help assess if this is the right opportunity for you. If you have been approached by an Executive Search firm, then quiz them on their understanding of the role and what the company are looking for.

Look at their information on Companies House or read their Annual Reports, as well as their varying social media pages and Glassdoor. Get to know what they talk about and their areas of focus by reviewing their website and searching for published articles and blogs.

At the interview stage, be prepared to answer detailed questions around your professional and even personal background, and make sure you have strong referees who are willing to support your application and can talk in detail about your previous work.

Many Executives are used to being the ones who conduct the interviews, so it’s worth using this knowledge and thinking about the expectations that you have for the candidates you interview, and applying these expectations to yourself.

Change of skills requirements

Following the major disruption many companies faced due to COVID, we are seeing a greater focus for Boards on new knowledge areas such as Change Management, Digital Transformation, and Diversity & Inclusion. These are all areas which may not be well covered by the existing Board members, and therefore provide opportunities for those with alternative skill sets or new approaches to shine.

In late 2020 we surveyed Non-Executive Directors in our network on the changes they have seen in Boards, and respondents listed the following as the top vital skills being sought from new Board members:

1. Leadership
2. Risk Assessment
3. Strategic Thinking
4. Communication

Finding the best way to demonstrate these skills within your own profile will help orientate you to the demands of a new Board role; especially if you do have previous Board experience.

Although there is still a very long way to go when it comes to Boards that are truly representative, the trends above are starting to open the Boardroom up to new approaches and people like never before.

Audeliss are being engaged by amazing organisations looking for new Board members because they want to adopt a new, and fairer, approach to their Board hiring.

If you want to know how you can make the most of this opportunity and kickstart your Non-Executive Director journey, get in touch here to speak to our team.