Where do I start if I want to be on a Board?

Women on BoardsWhether you’re a business owner, self-employed, or a professional woman, the day may come when you decide you’re ready to be on a board. There are many reasons to do so—for example, to give back to the community, support a cause you feel passionate about, or wanting to work strategically with peers to steer organisations into the future.

If being a member of a board is something you’re planning for, here are some good basic strategies in terms of getting started on your goal to achieve that board role.

Look Inward

Your very first step is to examine your personal motives for joining a board. Think about just why you want to join a board, what value you can add, and what kind of board you’re interested in. It shouldn’t be to make contacts that will grow your business. The ideal board position is one with an organisation that is aligned with your personal values and in which you can make a difference. It may also present you with mentoring opportunities or even provide you with a mentor to develop you as a Board Director.

Determine Your Value

If your mission is to improve society in some way, look into profit for purpose boards. With no board experience you are likely to find a role in the non-profit/for purpose environment, where there won’t be any compensation. You should also perform a personal inventory of the value you can bring to a board, your personal characteristics, skills, and professional experience to determine where and how you’ll be a good fit.

Educate Yourself

If you’ve never served on a board, you’re in that classic position so common to aspiring directors —the board wants people with experience, but if you can’t get a board role, how do you get experience? There are opportunities available to help you learn how to be an effective board member. Don’t overlook the value of presenting to a board of directors. And don’t hesitate to ask what the board is looking for in its members. Once you’ve armed yourself with this information, you can start talking to people in your current network about your interest in joining a board and what boards would be of interest. The Australian Institute of Company Directors have many courses to educate you in the roles and responsibilities for being a board director.

Target Your Audience

Very few boards have exactly the right mix of skills and experience they need. Make sure your CV and Board Bio identifies and highlights those areas where you can add value and fill their gaps on the board. Gerri Elliott, founder of Broadrooms.com, points out that you’re selling yourself, so think about being able to say “I can help in these specific ways, in this specific industry or this specific locality.”

In addition to other aspects of skills and experience, think about the unique insights you can bring to a board. For example, if a board is composed primarily of males, how could the female perspective add value to discussions and decision making? Be prepared to present the advantages from the board’s perspective—they need to know what’s in it for them to have you as a board member.

Consider the Possible Downside

If you remember the Enron scandal, you have some idea of what can happen when a board of directors doesn’t fulfil its responsibilities. It’s a good idea to have Professional Indemnity Insurance that covers your board service. The organisation must have Directors and Officers Liability insurance so ask to sight the policy to ensure currency as part of your due diligence process.

Being an effective board member takes work and constant educating of yourself in keeping up to date with economic, social and environmental matters. It means asking tough questions, having courageous conversations and making unpopular decisions when necessary. It may also take a considerable amount of time, so be sure you have the capacity.

Board service is certainly something many aspire to gain. It can help you in your career and give you opportunities you might not otherwise have. Behind Closed Doors offers mentoring and coaching, key insights, networking, and other resources that can help you get started in your board career and boosting your business or professional career.


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Aunty Eunice AstonAs Corporate Australia work towards equality in Senior Executive and Board roles, behind closed doors (BCD) is providing a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women to join the pool of candidates ready to step into these roles.

Eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women have the opportunity to join BCD’s Executive membership for 12-months fully funded as part of a national scholarship campaign.

BCD’s scholarships seek not to provide an award to the most accomplished Executive, but rather an opportunity to an applicant that will benefit the most from the opportunity provided.

behind closed doors Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said each 12-month scholarship will be awarded to a successful Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female executive to further expand and challenge her leadership and governance practices.

“BCD Executive membership will provide Scholarship recipients with a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encourage other members to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments,” Ms Walford said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders play a vital role in our society, we are honoured to offer respected leaders this opportunity to join our Executive membership to allow them, and the women around the table with them, an opportunity for growth.”

Each Scholarship, valued at $7,500 + GST each, will provide recipients access to professional development, peer to peer mentoring, and networking opportunities with some of Australia’s most influential and leading businesswomen in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Members meet with a highly respected and accomplished BCD Facilitator and Program Director for three hours, eleven times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded businesswomen. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.

BCD awarded an Inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Executive Adelaide Scholarship to Aunty Eunice Aston, a Ngarrindjeri woman with traditional ties to all communities within the Ngarrindjeri Nation, in 2016.

In addition to being the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Chairperson, Aunty Eunice also runs Ninkowar Inc, a community led support service supporting other Ngarrindjeri women.

Aunty Eunice Aston described the membership as “an opportunity of a life time” to meet with like-minded women from diverse workforce areas.

“Being a part of BCD has provided me with confidence in decision making, clarity of purpose, mentorship and support. BCD enables and empowers women from all walks of life to meet their aspirations both personally and professionally.” Aunty Eunice Aston said.

“BCD has enabled and empowered me as a Ngarrindjeri Woman Leader and Elder to stand firm and hold clarity before making decisions in community collaboration and negotiations. After each meeting I feel empowered, strong in body and mind.”

Following the receipt of an $100,000 Australian Government Grant from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women under the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy (WLDS), BCD has expanded the Scholarships in 2017 providing the opportunity to two women each in Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

To apply for one of the Scholarships, applicants need to submit a CV and 1000-word response to the eligibility criteria. Applicants will be shortlisted to panel interviews and recipients announced at a BCD Connexions Networking event in their capital city.

To apply or nominate an Executive Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman for a 12-month fully funded BCD membership – find out more details below.

Find out more about Adelaide Scholarships here.

Find out more about Perth Scholarships here.

Find out more about Melbourne Scholarships here.

Find out more about Sydney Scholarships here.

Issued by: Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors, 0401 349 791 penny@behindcloseddoors.com www.behindcloseddoors.com

Attracting Capital to Fund Business Growth: Do Men and Women Raise Business Capital Differently?

Attracting Capital for BusinessMany businesses can’t get past the conception stage without outside funding from loans or venture capitalists, which means fundraising by the CEO, owners, or founders is necessary. According to studies, when it comes to return on investment (ROI), companies with women in top management positions show a 35% better ROI and 34% better shareholder return than those with no women.

Yet globally, recent data reveal that only 10-percent of venture capital dollars invested between 2010 and 2015 went to start-ups with female founders. Could it be because men and women approach raising business capital differently?

Gender Differences in Business

While not much research is available specifically on how men and women approach business fundraising, there is clear evidence that men and women approach many things related to business very differently. For example, men and women have different leadership styles, with men being usually more focused on command and discipline and women more focused on mentoring and coaching.

Men and women also differ in communication styles. While women are more likely to use communication as a way to create relationships and promote social connections, men tend to use language to exert a form of productive dominance and achieve visible, easily measured outcomes in business.

Differences in the Way Women are socialised

Women may actually be socialised to avoid talking about money. While the research on this issue revolves around discussing personal finances, the inability to discuss money directly could certainly hinder a business fundraising approach. Another socialisation issue centres on negotiation. Many women are typically not socialised to negotiate—rather they are socialised to accept what is offered. This may mean that they unconsciously expect their pitches will be judged strictly on merit, when what is necessary is the cold, hard financial data and some pushing on their part.

Tailor the Approach

At least when it comes to philanthropic requests, men are more likely to respond to the direct approach, while women prefer an indirect approach such as a letter or email. For women who are looking for capital to fund their business, the message is clear: go directly to the source.

Also, in business dealings, men tend to be more interested in power or authority, while women are more interested in affiliation—warm, close relationships with others. These factors can certainly affect a fundraising approach. Using language that reflects these different approaches may be helpful—for men, stress the “power” advantages like money, visibility, and status. For women, talk about teamwork and building relationships with the community or customers, and the benefits doing so brings to business.

Whatever approach you use, you’ll have a better chance of attaining success if you’ve planned your pitch and its execution carefully.

Networks Are Key

There’s no question that networks affect almost all business dealings. Those who have the same gender, social background, or ethnicity tend to be part of the same professional network and are more likely to work together. Unconscious bias (and conscious bias as well) can also affect decisions about funding. Some investors are only comfortable, for example, in dealing with women in certain industries such as fashion or retail rather than those in technology.

Also, there are some distinct pitfalls for women in networking. Kathryn Minshew, co-founder of The Muse, a job search and career advice site, found out that at least one potential investor she met during a networking event was more interested in her personally than investing in her company (she found her funding elsewhere). But she also notes that such behaviour is becoming much less acceptable, and an offender is more likely to be called to account by his or her peers.

Strategy Matters

When raising capital, it’s important to develop strategies to help promote success. For example, consider your fundraising efforts as you would a job interview, with the business plan as your resume. Do your research—why approach a venture capitalist who has no knowledge of or interest in funding a tech start-up when that’s what your business is?

Ask for feedback when you don’t get funded—the answers may help you adapt your pitch or choose different and better targets next time. Contact other businesswomen or colleagues who have been successful in their fundraising efforts and ask them to share both successful and unsuccessful tactics. Be prepared; you need excellent financial data, market information, and a good business plan.

Finally, don’t give up easily. You should expect that raising capital can be difficult and take more time than you expect. Networking remains critically important at all stages of the fundraising process, not only in the usual circles but also in many others—your funding may come from a completely unexpected source. Tap into your support network to keep you going. And don’t overlook the possibilities of joining business and professional networks, especially those focused on women such as Behind Closed Doors where you’ll find valuable insights, mentorship, and guidance that should prove useful for your fundraising efforts and in improving your business or career in general.


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8 Key Things to Look for in a Business Mentor

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual telling us exactly what to do? Particularly when it comes to our business and careers, simply knowing the next step we should take would be incredibly valuable. If only we had some sort of a guide!

This is where having a business mentor becomes useful. A business mentor is someone who has already navigated your future career path or one very similar to it. They have experience in the trials and triumphs that are ahead of you and are willing to give you advice on how to best make your way. This is a long-lasting relationship with someone you respect and trust.

For example, serial entrepreneur Jo Burston attributes some of her success to her own business mentor. “My mentor of the past 10 years…helped me shape myself as a successful female entrepreneur,” she says. “I am totally fascinated by globally successful entrepreneurs and know that by emulating how they created their journeys I can craft my own,” she continues.

The Difference between a Business Mentor and a Business Coach

Business mentors are often confused with business coaches. However, the two are actually separate concepts. A business coach is generally goal-specific. You have an objective in mind and the coach is helping you get from Point A to Point B. As such, the relationship is often time or project bound. With a business coach you will likely have set objectives and your work with him or her will be more formal.

A business mentor, on the other hand, is someone with whom you will likely have a long and more informal relationship. He or she will see you through many business goals and career moves. Due to the close and ongoing nature of this relationship, it is essential to find the perfect match. Below are essential tips in terms of what to look for in a business mentor.

A Similar Path

You probably wouldn’t ask medical advice from your accountant, nor would you seek travel advice from someone who has never left your city. The same goes for business advice. In finding a business mentor, you want someone who actually has experience and knowledge in the fields in which you hope to succeed.

This doesn’t mean that they have the exact same jobs or business that you plan to have. But a good business mentor will have worked in more or less the same fields and succeeded in the same ways you hope to succeed. That way, they will be able to offer you invaluable advice for your specific career or business.

Successes…and Maybe Some Failures

If someone has consistently worked towards a goal but consistently not achieved it, then perhaps that person is not the best source of business advice on that particular goal. Obviously, if you want to know how to do something, you must ask someone who has succeeded in doing it. Make sure to choose a mentor who has succeeded where you hope to succeed, not simply someone who has been in business or in your career longer.

That said, no one is perfect and we learn best from our mistakes. The ideal mentor should also have some experience at failing. A balanced mentor will not only teach you how to reach your goals but will also more accurately warn you about the pitfalls ahead and show you how to deal with risks and failures (which anyone in business will almost certainly encounter at one point or another) and get back on your feet.


We aren’t all exactly the same. No matter how closely you match your mentor in terms of experiences, career or business goals, and behavior, your path will be at least somewhat different. As such, the ideal business mentor should have a strong sense of empathy to enable them to understand your individual experiences—especially in terms of career and business—and still provide valuable advice.

A Good Interpersonal Vibe

You know that date you went on with someone who just clearly doesn’t click with you? Perhaps you just can’t pinpoint why but you are very certain there is no way you could spend a future with this person. Finding the right business mentorship is a little bit like finding the right relationship. This should ideally be a long-lasting relationship. Your business mentor will support you through years—perhaps even decades—of career highs and lows. It is essential that this person should be someone with whom you can connect and with whom you feel very comfortable. You are building a trusted relationship.

Teaching Ability

Many people are extraordinarily skillful and brilliant in their chosen careers. However, when you ask them for advice, either they can’t give you good advice or they struggle with the act of imparting their knowledge. Perhaps it comes so easily to them that they don’t know how to begin explaining, or that their way of explaining is completely alien to you.

A good business mentor should not only be knowledgeable, he or she should also know how to teach and guide you through words and actions. Because, at the end of the day, you will get nowhere if your mentor doesn’t know how to impart to you the advice and insights you need to succeed, no matter how intelligent or successful he or she may be.

A Strong Network

So, you already have someone in mind who has the aforementioned qualities. Well and good, but it would be better still if that person also has a solid network that’s relevant and can be useful for your needs. A mentor who has a strong business network has more “material” to work with and more minds to consult, strengthening his or her efforts to give you the best possible advice. Not only that; the people in your mentor’s network can, in one way or another, be useful sources of key business and career insights and opportunities for you as well.

Maybe in time your mentor’s connections will be your connections, too.


Being accommodating is all well and fine among friends. However, your business mentor is not meant to be a friend. A mentor’s goal is to help you navigate your career path, face trials, make the right decisions along the way, and grow in the process.

So, much like a parent, he or she should be someone who is comfortable with giving you feedback, no matter how positive or negative it may be. If you ask for advice on a project or proposal, the ideal mentor does not simply give you blind praise, especially when it’s inappropriate or when you don’t need it. Instead, he or she should be honest and, in the case of negative feedback, should be able to communicate it to you in such a way that, instead of ruining your confidence, you’ll actually be more inspired and motivated to do better.

So where might you find the ideal business mentor? Strong candidates can be found in many places! Don’t limit yourself to your colleagues or those in your immediate circle—your perfect match might not even be in your current network.

If you are at a loss for where to find this mentor, or are not confident to approach the ideal mentor for you, we have an answer. At Behind Closed Doors we offer women peer to peer mentoring and one to one mentorship and essential advice to help you not only improve your business or your professional career but also to help you find the right mentor that will be with you as a key piece in your quest for business and/or professional success. For males, visit www.dwbottomline.com


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