– “It is not enough to wait for a mandate to present itself”
Because more gender equality also means more women in representation and management bodies, Femmes Leaders by Bilan offers you a monthly meeting with a female member of a board of directors. What inspires new candidates? A text produced in partnership with the Cercle Suisse des Administratrices.
Swiss Circle of Directors
Dominique Faesch, EHL, MBA has chaired Cercle Suisse des Administratrices since 2018. With her Committee, she has worked to increase the visibility of the excellent professional profiles of its members, for better accessibility to foundation and boards of directors.
How did you become an administrator? Describe in a few lines the main stages of your journey that allowed you to become a director.
The positions I have held, as president of a family foundation and within the Canton of Vaud Tourist Office (now Vaud Promotion) are the result of opportunities. This does not mean that the positions presented themselves automatically. It was necessary to identify each of the functions as feasible, enriching for the rest of my career, with a reasonable degree of training preparation. It was necessary to propose my candidacy formally and informally to the members already inducted, with the vacancies being claimed by several legitimate candidates. The course must be driven by a spirit of conviction and a lot of determination. A good analysis of the company and an honest appreciation of one’s own contribution is necessary. The right mix of domain and work experience, an actionable network as well as transferable skills, the essential soft skills, are essential.
And contrary to some ideas received, it is not enough to wait for a mandate to be presented, it is up to each one to start their application process and manage the follow-up of their steps.
What interests you most about this role?
The role interests me above all because of the opportunity it offers, to participate in the performance and creation of value of a company, an increasingly unique commitment.
Discussions with our member administrators lead me to say that there are as many forms of counseling as there are companies. In the past, the role of the board often remained confidential, discussed during the General Assembly or in the event of a problem. But today managers and shareholders recognize the role of an efficient board of directors or foundation governance, which is essential for the smooth running of the company. Their legal responsibility requires conscientious administrators who are concerned about their commitments.
What are the key skills and added value you bring to the board?
Curiosity, listening, interest in the business world, related to an international and multicultural background, allow me to ask insightful questions, aimed at members of management, and estimate the operational impact of their answers.
At Cercle Suisse des Administratrices, we pay special attention to the skills necessary for the proper functioning of a council, which we translate into training workshops. The board’s responsibility towards the company’s stakeholders, raising the awareness of the business world to current issues, which the board must address to instill strategic moves, are part of the Circle’s missions (cyber security, CSR, social and environmental responsibility, are two examples ).
What were the difficulties of this role, the challenges you encountered?
I would say it is a “lightning” activity, which requires a good adaptability! The 4 to 5 sessions organized throughout the year require good preparation. Transmission to operational teams requires clarity, precision and conviction, whether for proposals or when detecting an amber light in reports or in the external environment. It’s important to choose your words carefully, colorful but forceful, use a few well-selected bits of humor, but also listen. The first steps are sometimes surprisingly lonely, but whether you’re a woman or a man, involvement, constancy, foresight and ethics will make a difference.
What is your best practice in terms of obtaining a CA mandate?
What I recommend to people seeking directorships is essentially to carefully choose their peer networks where they can showcase their skills and discuss governance trends and best practices. Le Cercle is one such network. The mandates are limited and I advise you to identify companies in which you can creatively participate, sectors that are in line with your professional training, or where your skills are currently lacking. There follows a recruitment process that must be done strategically, knowing that a large number of councils recruit within their networks.
What does it take for Swiss company boards to include more women?
The problem deserves to be addressed holistically, but here are three actionable levels:
a) within the schools, in order to participate in a collective intelligence, diversity must be managed by presidents oriented towards the creation of value. If there is competition between the personalities of a team, it must be healthy, respectful, and constructive.
b) candidates must be aware of their legitimacy to be part of a council and the time they will have to dedicate to it. The ACAD, the Swiss Board School, among others, are essential continuous training to adapt one’s own skills to the functioning of a board. And to master a function it is necessary to practice it, to accept at the beginning to enter a zone of discomfort.
c) for the younger generations of managers, they must be made aware of the conditions of access to the last level of a company, of skills and useful training.
In Switzerland, and in the world, the diversification of advisory services evolves according to annual turnover, that is, slowly. But the numerous communications from an association such as the CSDA, and in particular the annual award of the Prix du Cercle, confirm that more and more companies are adopting an exemplary policy. The day that the effects of diversity on performance are scientifically proven… that question will no longer be raised.
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