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'Women on Boards' panelists to discuss their paths to the corporate boardroom

'Women on Boards' panelists to discuss their paths to the corporate boardroom
A photo illustration represents efforts to bring women and men to the same pay levels in the United States. A panel in Costa Mesa on Wednesday will focus on putting more women on executive boards. (Photo by Brian A. Jackson / Getty Images)

In this day and age, when more women are speaking up, you don’t have to be a mind reader to know that one of the things they want is equal representation in the corporate boardroom. And a panel of women who have already sat in those coveted seats plan to offer advice on how other women can get there during a panel discussion Wednesday in Costa Mesa.

Three highly experienced female executives will come together at the Center Club for a “Women on Boards” panel to discuss the status and future of women in senior leadership.

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Jane Buchan, chief executive of Pacific Alternative Asset Management Co. (PAAMCO), an institutional investment firm focused on hedge funds, will tell her story along with Julie Hill, a member of the board of directors at Anthem Inc.

“There is a roadmap out there to help women,” said Hill, a former president and CEO of Costain Homes who founded Hiram-Hill and Hillsdale Development Co. “When I was coming through I didn’t have a woman mentor, and I’ve made it my business to be one.”

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Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of the 2020 Women on Boards National Campaign, which aims to increase the number of women on U.S. corporate boards to 20% or more by the year 2020, will moderate the discussion. She owns Berkhemer-Clayton Inc., an executive search firm with a specialty in placing women in board roles, and is the author of “The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors.”

Berkhemer-Credaire said the corporate world needs to get used to seeing women at the conference table.

“Men have been running businesses for a long time,” she said. “Right now we have a pipeline overflowing with qualified women, and that’s never happened before. Now is the time like never before that women now want to be on corporate boards to help run the company and earn the money for doing so.”

Wednesday’s interactive discussion, which will heavily emphasize networking, will allow audience members to ask panelists questions about the experience needed to make it to a position on any type of board.

“We’ll talk about the possibilities for their own career — what it takes to serve on corporate boards and how to get the experience needed to get there,” Berkhemer-Credaire said. “We just want to help other women develop their potential in a way that they never thought of before.”

Panelists will also touch on how to overcome workplace bias. Buchan, who has done more than 100 panels, said she’s seen the data and believes women have to significantly outperform their male colleagues to secure the same positions.

“I think there’s a lot of subtle biases about how people think about things,” she said. “I still think there’s some double standards. For example, a man can pound the table and people will say he’s strong and speaks with conviction. A women pounds the table and she’s emotional.”

She said she sees things getting better, albeit slowly.

“It’s improved, but not anywhere near [where] I’ve thought myself or others would have expected,” Buchan said.

“Diversity is all the ways in which we differ,” Hill said, adding that women add value by bringing diversity to better represent a company and its shareholders, employees and customers.

“I do believe that when more women are on the corporate board the culture of the company changes,” Berkhemer-Credaire said. “It shows the company is more focused on the value of diversity.”

Each of the women on the panel said the representation of women in the boardroom has gotten better through the years but is still nowhere near where it should be.

As women make up nearly 51% of the U.S. population, the thinking goes, there’s no reason they can’t take half the seats in boardrooms.

“It’s not at all a women’s rights thing,” Berkhemer-Credaire said. “It’s a business thing that’s good for women.”

The effort to put more women on boards has reached Sacramento. Senate Bill 826, which is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting signature, would require publicly traded companies headquartered in California to place at least one woman on their boards by 2019.

IF YOU GO

What: “Women on Boards: The What, How & Why”

When: 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Center Club, 650 Town Center Drive, Garden Level, Costa Mesa

Cost: $65

Shannon M. Hoffman is a contributor to Times Community News.

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