Better diversity in Transport - How women can unlock the Non Executive Director opportunity

08 October 2019

One of the best ways for women to get board experience in the transport industry, as well as open up a better gender balance at senior levels, is for them to think laterally and become a Non-Executive Director (NED). This was a key finding from our Furthering your Career workshop hosted with Women in Rail’s SWIFT*. The workshop highlighted that many overlook this position, either because they believe they need to already have C-suite experience, or because they were unclear on what a NED role entails and how to prepare. With a NED role being a good springboard to the C-Suite, what do women need to know?

What does the role of a NED entail?

Simply put, the role of a NED is to monitor executive directors, protecting and acting in the interests of the company stakeholders. Being responsible for the success or failure of the business according to statutory requirements and tax laws. Inputting into strategy, maximising board effectiveness and ensuring good governance, in both the private and public sectors. For more detail, sources like the FRC’s UK Corporate Governance Code and their Guidance on Board Effectiveness are a great help.

Generally then NEDS need to:

  • Advise, challenge and guide rather than devise solutions, action decisions or direct others
  • Illustrate experience and expertise through language, rather than telling
  • Question and listen in order to obtain full information
  • Use judgement based on data and results, not on presentational behaviour

How can you prepare yourself for the interview and the role?

  1. Get comfortable attending board meetings and observe NED’s in this environment - for example anyone can request a copy of your local NHS board meeting minutes and request to attend a meeting.
  2. Define your unique selling points – for example, diversity of thinking, what value can you add, and what vital experience can you bring from every aspect of your life?
  3. Consider taking on roles with a similar level of responsibility such as a School Governor which is the perfect grounding and experience to become a NED.
  4. Network – use your contacts and see where there is scope for you to add value to organisations.
  5. Interview confidently (something that has been raised as an issue many times for women compared to their male counterparts! – focus on what you CAN do)
  6. Stick at it - it is a tough and competitive road!

What else should I be thinking about when it comes to landing a particular NED role?

  • Develop real interest in the organisation so that you are already thinking about how and where you can add value.
  • Understand the responsibility that comes with the role you’ve targeted – as a NED, you are equally liable with the executive directors under company law.
  • Make sure there is a natural cultural fit, and you must have the time available to commit to the role.
  • Be passionate, committed and aware of the challenges - especially if the organisation is under pressure!

For more on the PwC Leadership Exchange and our development programmes go to The PwC Leadership Exchange, contact Charlie Johnson Ferguson, or you can also reach out to Adeline Ginn, founder of Women in Rail and SWIFT.

Charles Johnson-Ferguson

Charles Johnson-Ferguson | Transport and Logistics Leader, PwC United Kingdom
Profile | Email | +44 (0) 7841 561 340

Adeline Ginn

Adeline Ginn | Founder and Chair of Women in Rail and SWIFT
Email | +44 (0)7444 233086