Speaking from my own experience I believe there is great value to be had in joining a committee of the Chartered Institute of Building. I first joined a CIOB Committee in 2003, while on maternity leave with my first child, as at the time I felt a bit isolated from work. Knowing I had to return after six months, networking through the CIOB was the perfect way to re-engage.
The first CIOB committee I joined was the CIOB’s Conversation, Maintenance and Refurbishment Group chaired by John Edwards FCIOB, which was highly educational.
Later joining the CIOB London Branch Committee, I found this was instrumental with networking and forging good relationships and then I joined the CIOB’s London Sustainability Strategy Group in 2010. With this committee I was nominated to a Chair role and undertook this role from 2010 to 2013.
I was starting to get very interested in sustainability and undertook some research, with other members of the group, for the CIOB to help influence Government policy. I became a Chartered Environmentalist in 2010 through the CIOB, and further developed my leadership skills through the committee work.
Being on a voluntary committee allows you to develop your opinions, share thoughts with committee members, and supports leadership development and social skills. I would certainly say that being an active committee member with the CIOB helped me to develop some of the Board skills that I have to this day.
Having committee experience gained from the CIOB, and subsequent roles as Regional Chair for IEMA’s Yorkshire & Humber steering group and member of IEMA’s Strategic Advisory Group to their Board, gave me the confidence to apply for my first Board role with North Yorkshire Sport. This has led to an active voluntary Board role with this organisation for over 3 years.
Some important skills I learnt from being a committee member were listening skills, commitment, leadership, teamwork, strategy development, creativity and budget management. I have also gained experience of chairing meetings in my role as a Senior Project Manager, but I really got to be more creative with developing the strategy of the committee when I was Chair of the London Branch Sustainability group.
I am currently building upon my Board experience outside of work and I’m now in my second Board role as a Trustee of the Yorkshire Collaborative Academy Trust. I help support 5 primary schools in North Yorkshire with fellow Trustees. I also sit on their Finance, Risk and Resource Subcommittee and have been a Trustee with this educational Board for over 2.5 years.
In October 2020, I was also appointed by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to be a Trustee Board Director, further to my application and nomination. My role will involve shaping the future of WES with other Trustees, and I’m looking forward to developing ideas and networking with an eclectic mix of women on the Board. Interestingly, there will be younger women on this Board and I hope to help develop their skills from my Board experience, but I’m sure I can learn a few things from them too.
There is not only the issue of lack of diversity and inclusion on many Boards of today, but also the issue of ageism and barriers for younger people joining Boards. Why wait until you’re almost near retirement age to be on a Board? I think it’s great to see early participation of young people of all backgrounds joining Boards to harness untapped talent. There are young individuals becoming more apparent on Boards, which might be mentored, and they will be our future leaders! I would certainly note that more employers need to aim for diverse boards, which has been proved to improve both profit and results in McKinsey’s report; ‘Diversity Wins How Inclusion Matters’.
If you are thinking about joining a board, be prepared to be committed for up to 3 to 4 years: it’s not something to take on lightly and may require you starting on a subcommittee. For example, with North Yorkshire Sport I started on their HR subcommittee, and this enhanced my knowledge and skills.
You may also be asked to participate in ad hoc activities beyond attending meetings, such as research or ensuring the Board’s policies are up to date. Choose your Board / organisation carefully and read up thoroughly on the specification of the role and about the Board’s objectives. Review their website, and if you can, find information on their financial background, in advance of the interview or joining the Board.
At primary school and secondary school, I was a little shy, however experience and work, as well as networking, have over the years helped develop and expand my social skills. So, if you are like me in that sense or possibly feel you lack confidence, consider obtaining an internal or external mentor to help build that confidence for Board level. Joining a committee can help build your confidence, and will also give you a rewarding experience to refer to on your C.V and possibly be a springboard to pursuing your first Board role.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!