Board PowHER logo

PowHERhouse is deeply committed to increasing the number of Canadian women                  in key leadership positions by 10% by 2025.

That includes on boards!  We are grateful to be working with Dentons on a new media initiative called Board PowHER!

Board PowHER is a Canadian Readiness and Visibility Campaign for female leaders.  In partnership with Dentons, we are excited to move the conversation of Women on Boards forward.  Watch our second Board PowHER webinar here facilitated by PowHERhouse CEO Charlene SanJenko, featuring panelists Marcela Mandeville, CEO, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs; Fiona L. Macdonald, Director, GMP Capital; and Jay-Ann Gilfoy, CEO, Vancity Community Investment Bank.

September 21  Board PowHER Webinar II | Key Comments + Messages

PowHERhouse WOMEN BUILT2SCALE Webinar Series


Marcela Mandeville - CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Boards: YES (Youth Empowerment Society), EEDC (Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, ISA (International Student Assoc.); former director on Alberta Innovate, former chair of Literacy Without Borders.

Fiona L. Macdonald - Director of boards: GMP Capital (investment), BC Ferries Authority, Royal Canadian Mint, B.C. chapter of Institute of Corporate Directors.

Jay-Ann Gilfoy - CEO of Vancity Community Investment bank, CEO of newly created bank, brings finance to social purpose organizations, boards: BC Lottery Assoc., Coast Capital, nonprofits, past-chair of BCHRA. 

Charlene SanJenko - CEO and founder of PowHERhouse Media Group. Two years on City of Gibsons council. Community Economic development certification.


What do we need to know about preparing and putting ourselves forward on boards? How / Why is this conversation relevant? 

Marcela - To continue the conversation about not only getting onto boards, but effective participation on boards and knowing when to move on and seek out other opportunities.  Important balance of capacity-building in your community and choosing boards relevant to what you’re doing now.  

Fiona - Always happy to help others on their career journey.  I think it’s hard to know how to sell yourself.  We talk about putting yourself forward, but if you do it wrong, it’s worse than not having a conversation at all.  And want to talk about the responsibilities and risks of sitting on boards.  

Jay-Ann - want to talk about how to take your experience into the boardroom, selling yourself and knowing what types of boards / which organizations that match your values and that you can get behind.

Char - This is really relevant to PowHERhouse.  I see women growing in their careers.  I see leadership and influence being connected, and boards as a way to grow your influence.  We need to think about not just numbers but who am I as a leader and how am I growing my influence in my position as a leader?


Women need to educate themselves about the roles, responsibilities and risks that come with sitting on boards.  

Fiona - Many see getting on boards as a wonderful transition and career strategy - it is, but it’s not necessarily cash flow.  There are pretty universal rules for publicly traded boards, such as share requirements where you need to own 3-5 times your compensation in the firm’s stock.  That means no cash flow for 3-5 years.  Natural resources - mining, oil and gas - for example, are very cyclical so very big risk profiles.  You need to be in position to resign on principle, to be independent enough that when the organization has the opportunity to be bought out, you have to put aside any self-interest, and know how risky the organization is in terms of its stock performance.  Boards that pay less - you do it because it’s interesting and rewarding, because you can.  Reputational risk is enormous.  Huge roles with shared decisions and serious consequences.  Read all the proxy statements, but also do independent research -- there are sharks.  It’s a journey for independent thinkers. Don’t depend on anybody else.  

Jay-Ann - Think about where you want to put your energy.  Reputational risk. 

Marcela - No corporate board experience yet, but risk awareness is important and understanding the organization’s philosophy and management philosophy. There’s homework involved - find out the right questions to ask. Make sure it’s a right fit for you now and think of where you want to be in the future.


Leadership ladder - know where you’re at in that ladder, know what you’re ready for.  Are you a specialist or generalist? Know why you are a particular fit for a particular board. 

Jay-Ann - It requires a lot of work, reading and self-reflection. I’m really clear on what I bring to the table: what I’m good at and what I need to grow.  Lots of HR and technology experience. 

Marcela - Choose boards that align with your experience --I’m a builder, so where there’s building and strategy, lots of change and activity - and balance with boards that are more stable.  Be open to learning and looking at things in a different way.  I like being on boards because not only do I bring the diversity of my perspective, but I learn other perspectives and add that to how I view the world and approach my business.  I get to meet people who have very different experiences.  So, look at who’s on the boards too and what you could learn from them.


Relevance and transition - knowing where you’re going to add value and making sure you’re adding value.  

Fiona - It’s a position of influence, not of direct authority - so, what background and skill set do you bring where the CEO will find you useful? You’re overseeing the CEO - you’re changing the strategy or changing the CEO. Think through the transition strategy: Think through things going wrong and right. Risk management: What happens when…? Most boards are desperate for IT.  Financial acumen is good to have, to be able to chair an audit - no one wants to do this and it fills a gap/need.  It shows you can navigate through uncertainty with a ‘hard’ approach.  You have to be able to think through capital investment decisions and cash flow things.  Understand the broader environment.  When developing your career, make sure you don’t silo and are building out various aspects, get exposed to all the different pieces so you’re well-rounded. Are there adjacent industries/ companies  to be on boards for? If professional services side, like me, you have great breadth, a great network.  I was seen as a subject expert; the challenge was to get them to see me as a potential board member (permanent role).  Educate yourself - take courses.  The ICD (Institute of Corporate Directors) has courses.  Talk to mentors and ask what are the areas you need.  You need accounting and finance basics.  Keep adding to your knowledge.  

Jay-Ann - You have to have financial acumen.  

Char - I am not an accounting expert.  I know my financials as a CEO.  Strategic knowledge.  How do you maintain the continuum of growth?


What next? How to successfully execute your board position now and longer-term vision of it? 

Marcela - Financial acumen and looking at financial environment are very important.  It’s important to showcase that you have skills and are part of the decisions.  It’s a challenge to showcase that I do know financials, say, show I’m on the board for skill set, not just because I check a lot of boxes (Indigenous, woman, visible minority).  It’s important to stretch too.  Maximize the talent you currently bring and also stretch.  

Jay-Ann - Be prepared, put in the time ahead of time and ongoing work.  Understand group dynamics and how to keep your voice independent enough.  A board is not a team.  So you’re doing your job and also getting what you need from it.  Keep an open mindset - stay independent but with a curiosity to learn.  

Fiona - I think it is a team, but it is hard to find your voice and to know how to contribute effectively.  Sometimes it is the soft skills.  It’s kind of lonely though.  Much of it is confidential, you can’t talk to your friends about it.  When you’re networking, ask others about their journey, rather than asking for a job.  Build a profile of what it takes and how to do it, how you can contribute, then fit yourself into that.  What are others are doing that’s so successful?

Char - It’s all the little pieces - how they’re presenting themselves, though the depth is there. Know how important it is to build your position of influence and then represent it well.


Register for our webinar series HERE.

If you would like to receive information about Board PowHER as it becomes available, please let us know here: 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.