What does it take to see more women sitting on the boards of corporations?

A recent conference of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) Conference sought the answers. More than 70 women from 46 companies in the Tristate region attended the conference, which was presented in conjunction with Western & Southern Financial Group®, Procter & Gamble, US Bank and Baker Hostetler. In opening remarks, John F. Barrett, chairman and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group, strongly encouraged the women present to be actively involved in forging a vision for Cincinnati’s future.

Keynote speakers included Constance Armstrong, executive director of The Boston Club; Terry Barclay, president and chief executive officer of Inforum in Detroit; and Toni Wolfman, executive in residence for the Women’s Leadership Institute at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.

Here’s a “Top 10” list of advice they offered women to prepare themselves to serve and have a stronger presence on corporate boards:

1. Develop a Network and Use It.Include male and female allies who serve as executives or board members of for-profit companies, especially ones in your field.

2. Prepare a Board Biography. List pertinent skills and experience (not a resume list of employers). Distribute this to key head-hunting firms and your network.

3. Serve on not-for-profit boards. Choose strategically, but be passionate about the work and the mission. Take visible leadership, internally and externally. Be bold but smart.

4. Stay Up-to-Date On Your Industry.Research regulations, governance, latest skills and techniques.

5. Become Known In Your Industry. Publish articles, join trade organizations and take visible leadership.

6. Become Known in Your Community. Again, take visible leadership roles in areas of substance and impact. Advocate for action at the local, state and/or federal level.

7. Research Structure of Companies and Boards on Your Target List. Understand how seats are filled and term limits. Know the company mission statement and how your skills will advance the mission.

8. Be Open to Opportunities Not on Your “Target” List. Your first option might be with a smaller company with less name recognition.

9. Create Your Own Personal Board of Directors. Set and share goals, get feedback, be accountable to your board.

10. Invest In Yourself. Participate in leadership-building experiences. Gain advanced management knowledge through educational opportunities.