Ghilaine Chan completed Westminster Business School’s Women for the Board Programme in October this year . She runs Ghilaine & Co, working with business owners to ensure that their companies can grow sustainably: “A plug-in COO, if you like”.
“When I applied for Women for the Board,” says Ghilaine, “I was already running my own company. I wanted to find a network of similarly-minded people, who had similar ambitions, and for us to share knowledge, learn from each other, and support each other.”
“I also,” she adds, “wanted to gain a board position within five years.”
Women for the Board – a different kind of course
Ghilaine, a former Microsoft employee, is the veteran of many training courses. She found the Women for the Board Programme particularly inspiring.
“What gives the programme the edge is meeting people who already have board roles, who’ve been there and done that. People who do those roles differently, who’ve achieved their roles in different ways, and apply their own rules to it.
Often, on other courses, you’re encouraged to follow instructions and do things in the one particular way. Women for the Board allows you to see lots of different approaches to board roles and gives you the freedom to fit your own approach into how you will go about it.”
And, she explains, what sets Women for the Board apart is course director Dr Ruth Sacks’s vision: “Ruth so strongly wants to give women the confidence to go for roles that they’re perfectly capable of doing. She enables the participants to understand that they can take that step. The Programme helps you apply the skills and the abilities you already have, and gives you that confidence boost to know that there are other people around you who say yep – you can do this too.”
Proof that you can do it
Doing Women for the Board helped Ghilaine articulate her ambitions to become a board member. “Because of the programme,” she says, “I could prove that I have the training and the guidance around me to put the governance in place to a company. And I found a good group of women who, like me, had the ambition to grow into a board position.”
Having set herself the goal of achieving a board role within five years, Ghilaine was actually appointed to a non-executive directorship on the board of brainbroker – a new kind of consultancy that links SMEs with resources, tools and people to provide specific outcomes for their business – before she finished the programme.
“Brainbroker only launched in April. The company helps businesses with their digital transformation. With my own background of helping businesses solve problems in a non-standard way, I’ve been able to go in and help them refine what they offer their clients.”
Ghilaine was appointed to the brainbroker board after meeting one of the company’s founders at an event. “In conversation, I realised that my skills and values align very strongly with them and their values. And, because I was doing Women for the Board, I could talk about that as well. That meant that when they mentioned they were looking for a board member, I could say I was interested, and the conversation progressed from there.”
Ghilaine’s advice for women who want board roles
Ghilaine has two pieces of advice for women aspiring to board roles
“The first thing I would say is understand why you want the role. And secondly, identify steps you need to take to get there and map them out. Once you have those two items, you can really start working towards what you need to get in order to get your board position.
And it’s not as hard as you would imagine.”
Apply now for the Women for the Board Programme