Female Board Members -The Hard Truths

“Don’t ever speak to me like that again” said the financial director.

Many years ago, those were the immortal words said to me by a financial director that I was working alongside at the time. 

I must have said something terrible.

I must have been insulting and out of line.

I must have misbehaved.

The truth is, I hadn’t.

I simply answered his question about a project I was co-leading with the FD. 

I spoke up, held my space with clarity and honesty. 

Demonstrated my expertise on the subject matter, stated the next steps of the project and shared the data I was going to hand off to the finance team. 

I was clear, precise, took my seat at the table just like everyone else and owned my space. 

I’ll be honest, it felt good to be able to show the all-male Boardroom that I knew the project inside and out. The other board members congratulated me on my knowledge and asked me more questions than I was easily able to answer. The one problem I was unsure of, I said so and followed it up with a commitment to email them all the following day with a clear answer on the unknowns.

But here’s where it all went wrong for me. The correct information I shared as a female in the Boardroom was entirely different from the story the male Financial Director had been telling the leadership team before I arrived in the room.

His information was factually incorrect. He had a clear lack of understanding of the project. He’d blustered his way through a question with overconfidence before I’d arrived in the room. He thought it would be a good enough answer and he’d get away with his lack of knowledge … just like he usually did.

One of the things about being a woman in business and a female in the Boardroom is that we tend to feel we need to know 100% about everything to be the expert or be considered good enough. We usually kill ourselves to make sure that’s the case. We work more hours than we need to, and we make sure we have ALL the information. 

At the end of the Board meeting, a fellow Board member turned to the Financial Director and made a joke about making sure I answer the questions next time so he can always look good. I followed up in the spirit of the joshing-boys-club with another little joke, and everybody laughed it off.

It was early the next morning when the Financial Director stormed into my office, clearly in a rage. That’s when he delivered his raging monologue; how I must never speak to him like that again (referring to the little joke at the end!). Who did I think I was speaking up as I did in the Boardroom? I had utterly humiliated him in front of his peers, and he was no longer going to support me or my career.

I’ll be honest; I was devasted. The Financial Director stood over me with rage and aggression; he told me he would make sure my career with the company was over. He made threats that I wouldn’t be getting access to other influential projects in the future.

I felt small, stupid, ashamed  – like I had done something very, very wrong.

I hadn’t. 

I had demonstrated my skill, knowledge and expertise as a female in the Boardroom. I’d spoken up with charisma. Praise was given, and I’d joined in with the lad’s banter at the end.

I tried to fit in.

My story is not unique. I hear stories like this all the time, in the day of woke enlightenment, of women having tough times in the Boardroom. I hear from women who are challenged and slapped down regularly for daring to put their head above the parapet.

We are changing the paradigm of what a leader looks like. Leaders come in all shapes, colours, sizes and genders. But women are still very new to the table when it comes to being seen as great leaders.

Several studies suggest that having women as part of the leadership team results in better acquisition and investment decisions, and less aggressive risk-taking, yielding benefits for shareholders. 

Harvard Business Review suggests one potential reason: Having female board members and leaders helps temper the overconfidence of male CEOs, improving the overall decision making for the company.

That is the part I played on that day. I had tempered the overconfidence, lack of knowledge and helped the board make better decisions and have a clearer understanding of the project. I did GOOD.

These stories are my WHY. Why I put together a Boardroom for women. 

A place where women can come together and create an emotional intelligence tool kit to help them hold their ground in leadership positions, be assertive, know that they have done great by being a clear communicator. And, have tools to handle the old guard way of thinking and behaving.

We work out the source of your old stuff that’s holding you back and getting in the way, challenge it then support you to create new ways of thinking, feeling. 

You get to lead with clarity and confidence, taking your seat at the table. We share the emotional intelligence toolkit with you so you can slay your career and stand out, lead and be proud as a great female board member and leader. 

You may not be currently sat at the boardroom table or even want a seat at the boardroom table.

Our Boardroom group programme is STILL FOR YOU.

You may be reading this right now, knowing you want more from your career.

You know you have skills, knowledge and ability but maybe lacking confidence on how to assert yourself. Perhaps you need to know how to handle conflict and how to build your self-esteem.

  • It could be that you need a peer group that can show you that it IS possible to be a great leader and chose your path without being seen as something negative.
  • You need a tool kit, a roadmap, and a coach who’s been there too and found the way through and come out of the other side.
  • You need help and support; you need to know that you can handle what you need to manage and uplevel, owning your space in your career.


and let’s see if we’re the right fit for each other.

HBR’s findings suggest female board representation can be especially beneficial in helping businesses weather crises. Overall, their research supports the view that having females on boards and in leadership positions improves strategic decision making and benefits the overall business.

It’s time. You are ready, and we are prepared for you. Play your part in improving decision making and improving that way business is done.

We have the plan, and we can help you show up in your career in the way that works for you—equipping female board members with the right knowledge and skills.

Being a great leader is about more than just your talent.  The Boardroom is a space of inclusiveness and about making sure that what you say and do count. It’s about having the skills to handle the bumps in the road, and ensure you have the resilience to handle any crisis situation that’s put in front of you. 


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2 thoughts on “Female Board Members -The Hard Truths”

  1. Hi Jo
    Feel your pain – been there as a man, also as one of your colleagues – best bosses I’ve had have been women apart from the one’s trying to emulate men’s behavior. Very sad.Worked for some great female bosses – amazing people – some of the men/boys I’ve/you’ve worked for are multi millionaires now which obviously was a driver of the the behaviors but there was something always more sinister and immoral- can’t find the words and been questioning it for 15 years – I didn’t fit In to the boys clubs cheers PC

    • Hey Paul – Good to hear from you. AND to get your support and voice on this blog. Sadly, even though my incident (this and many others) were a long time ago, I still hear similar stories today. That is my Why. The opening two minutes of my keynote focuses on one of ‘those’ incidents too… The first time I gave that keynote the gasps of despair was palpable, people spoke to me afterwards, sharing their stories that all had the same essence of dysfunctional leadership and communication. Catch up soon, would love to know what you are up to these days.

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