Dr Yvonne Thompson’s new book, ‘7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards’ is essential reading, not only for women who’ve set their sights on a seat in the board room, but for anyone interested in progressing their career. The book gives a fascinating insight into how 22 highly successful women on corporate boards, including Diversity Jobs’ Sheekha Rajani, overcame challenges to get to the top – and stay there.
‘7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards’ is based on interviews with these women and written from a personal perspective by Yvonne, who has an inspirational story of her own to tell. The book also makes some compelling arguments for the 30% Club, and how better gender balance at all levels of an organisation makes business more effective.
The Big I.D.E.A. asks Yvonne why her book is such a powerful argument for diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Why did you decide to write this book, and how does it contribute to the growing dialogue about board equality?
I decided to write this book after 30 years in business, realising that time after time not only was I the only women on many of the boards that I sat on, but also I was the only person of colour on the board. I wanted to share my experience, advice tips, traits and characteristics that I realise are needed to get on a board and stay there. I also enlisted the wisdom of another 22 women on boards who also agreed to contribute to keeping this very important topic on the agenda.
‘7 Traits’ is a new approach to the conversation regarding women on boards. It doesn’t look at the policy-driven side, it doesn’t looks at quotas, and it doesn’t look at figures side of the narrative. It looks at the people side of the narrative because facts and figures don’t inspire people, people inspire people.
You’ve interviewed some amazing, inspirational women for your book, did you have any favourites?
They are all my favourites; they have all got good stories to tell. But the stories I recount the most is Heather Rabbatts’ story as she is truly in a man’s world, being the only female of the board of the FA and being of mixed race to boot. Antonia Belcher’s story is truly inspirational but you’d have to read the book to know why. And Paula Vennells, CEO of the Post Office, always comes to mind as she has the most unusual weekend pastime of my 22 real models.
Did anyone surprise you with their attitude or experiences?
Again, Antonia Belcher’s story is a real game changer and takes a totally different perspective of the issue. Many of the women had challenges getting to where they are, but some had quite straightforward journeys. However I believe most had some challenge or hurdle that they had to strategise around.
The women you interviewed talk a lot about mentoring as a way of benefitting careers, why do you think this works so well?
The relationship provides growth both for the mentee and the mentor. If the matching is a good one, the mentee will have as much to teach the mentor and vice versa. Each mentoring opportunity should be a learning experience for both parties. Whilst one may learn more than the other, the mentor is still learning how to deal with different people with different approaches at different levels. There is always something to learn from every experience.
Most of these women are positive about their journey to the top, despite the fact many of them will have faced huge challenges along the way. Why do you think this is?
Yes some of the women did have challenges along the way, but finding the way forward around the challenge is also – and sometimes more – of a positive experience.
Do you think there will ever be 50% Club?
I really hope we would never need one. When the 30% Club achieves their goal and surpasses it, the benefit to the bottom line of having more women and more diversity on boards will become obvious.
Turning one of your questions around to you, if your life was a masterclass what would it be?
No one has asked me that question before and I guess it was just a matter of time, so here goes… My masterclass lesson would be how to be selfless and courageous, whilst keeping your eyes on the prize.