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How the next generation is breaking into company boardrooms

September 10, 2023
Borderless Leadership

After 20 years in investment banking, Rupal Patel joined risk analytics fintech Acin in 2019. Since starting her role, she has met board directors and advisers — typically older people in corporate life who had been on similar trajectories to hers and now have portfolio careers involving multiple board seats. They manage their own time, do varied and interesting work and give strategic advice without the stress of an executive role. “This sounded like a good proposition for me longer-term,” she said.

But Patel soon realised getting her first board seat would be difficult. As a 44-year-old woman of Indian origin, the odds are stacked against her. The world of non-executive directors is “a closed circle of who you know”, she said. “You really need experience and a network.”

Rather than signing up for an educational programme that teaches the theoretical aspects of boardroom life, Patel wanted practical experience. She got in touch with Heather White, a matchmaker who helps executives work their way to their first NED role by facilitating boardroom apprenticeships. For a fee of £7,800, White interviews candidates and connects them with a host board for a 12-month stint as an observer. They are mentored by the chair but also assigned a coach who helps them navigate boardroom relationships and decisions. (Everyone signs non-disclosure agreements.)

In the UK, boardroom apprenticeships are still a nascent idea and data is scant on how many convert to non-executive director roles. But demand is rising, according to White.

“Lots of executives — male and female — are looking for board roles but are not getting them,” she said. For candidates, such schemes provide insight into what a seat on a corporate board involves and are a way to boost their CV. READ MORE

by Anjli Raval


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