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Corporate Boards 101: Nose In Fingers Out

Earlier this year, I started working on the marketing team for 2020 Women on Boards Chicago 8th Annual National Conversation on Board Diversity. From the start, I realized how little I knew about corporate boards. My professional experience is in meteorology and communications, so I have never interacted with a board of directors in any place I have worked. Whenever I heard the words “board of directors,” I would envision a group of men and women sitting around a large table discussing important topics related to their organization.

As a woman who worked in a heavily male populated field, I understand the importance of gender representation. I wanted to help give a voice to this issue, which is why I am thrilled to do my part in helping 2020 Women on Boards fulfill its mission to increase the percentage of women on U.S. corporate boards to 20 percent or greater by the year 2020. While on the surface, I recognize the importance of this work, I needed to fully understand the role of a corporate board before I could appreciate why diversity among them matters so much.

My research started simple - who makes up a corporate board and what is their function in a company? My research quickly illustrated how important it is to have gender diversity on corporate boards. Why should you care about corporate board composition? Boards of directors make decisions that can impact you, your community, and the country. The research shows that having women in these board positions tends to support a higher number of women occupying other positions in that organization.

Board members, called directors, are the highest governing authority within the management structure of a corporation. The individuals selected to be on the board of directors of a corporation have overall responsibility for the activities of the corporation. Boards of directors choose CEOs. They make decisions about executive compensation; whether to buy, sell, or merge with other companies; where corporate offices close and relocate; and how much priority a company gives to issues other than profits, such as social responsibility.

It is vital for a successful organization to have a respectful and productive working relationship between the board and the CEO. One way to sour that relationship is when the board concerns itself with the day-to-day decision-making. A board's role is to govern the affairs of the company while the daily decisions are made by the corporation's executives and managers. The phrase “nose in, fingers out” is commonly used in corporate governance and it simply means the board will manage the strategy of the business, not the business itself. 

Sandra Wilson, a Corporate Board Director for four private companies (Midtronics, SS White Dental, Sasser Family Holdings, and United Generations Family Holdings), will be leading two roundtable discussions where she will focus on this “nose in, fingers out” concept in detail at 2020 Women on Boards Chicago 8th Annual National Conversation on Board Diversity on November 21, 2019 event at The Union League Club from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. I hope to see you there, learning about how to keep your nose in and fingers out, while mingling with 40+ corporate board directors and the 300-400 attendees.

Christine Krause is a marketing team member for the 2020 Women on Boards 8th Annual Conversation on Board Diversity – Chicago. This series, Corporate Boards 101+, will highlight her experience and learnings as a newcomer to the important work of board diversity.