Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2003Kellogg School of Management
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Kellogg helping women unlock corporate boardrooms

Women aspiring to corporate director seats often find the boardroom door politely but firmly shut. The Kellogg School’s Center for Executive Women aims to provide the keys to open it.

The center has launched the Women’s Director Development program, the school’s first Executive Education program geared entirely to women. Now in its second year, the program helps women acquire the skills to join the corporate board network.

“Our goal is to help women make the leap onto nominating committee radar screens, and we’re already doing that,” says Professor Victoria Husted Medvec, the center’s executive director and program coordinator.

“We feel we have truly surfaced some new candidates, and that is very gratifying.”

The three-day program has garnered wide media attention, including a feature article in The New York Times. The course has sold out quickly, and enrollment has been brisk for the next two sessions: May 7 to 9 and Nov. 12 to 14.

The caliber of past and future attendees particularly pleases Medvec. Participants include a number of chief executives and financial officers, as well as presidents and vice presidents of companies such as Microsoft Corp., R.R. Donnelly and Sons Co., Coca-Cola Co, and Barnes & Noble Inc.

“These are not mid-career professionals,” Medvec says. “These are people already at the executive level, and they’re already qualified to take the next step and become board members.”

The program addresses the responsibilities of board membership, accentuating decision-making skills and information analysis. But it also goes beyond the nuts-and-bolts of board participation to offer specific insights about how attendees can maximize their impact on a board and establish credibility in what is usually a male-dominated environment.

“It really helped give me a better sense of where to look for certain problems and how to analyze the health of the company,” says Margery Kraus, president and CEO of APCO Worldwide Inc. and a steering committee member for the center.

Kraus attended the Women’s Director Development program last year and says she found the experience invaluable.

“There is a need for this, because boards are in the spotlight now. You want to make sure that the women who join boards are qualified to do so,” she says.

Participants who complete the course come away with more than a sheaf of notes and contacts. The center adds their names to its “director database,” which is available free of charge to corporations seeking new board members and to executive search firms that are recruiting directors.
Medvec says the center has received “quite a few” requests for candidates to fill board seats. “In this way, we are proactively addressing the absence of women on corporate boards,” she says.

That boards need more female members is something few can dispute. As of 2001, women occupied just 12 percent of all director seats on S&P 500 boards, according to research by the Spencer Stuart Board Index Report of 2002.

Women who are interested in enrolling in the Women’s Director Development Program should contact Marily Schonthal via email, or by phone at 847-491-7019. They can also apply online.


©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University