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Career Spotlight: “Governance” rocks for Women (in France)!

61080768-92da-4928-a635-0317f8cff309One of my favorite roles as career coach is to identify new types of jobs and careers. Today, there are people trail-blazing in careers they can’t even give a label to; there are need-built jobs emerging daily from new technologies –  jobs that remain “confidential” because no one with more than two degrees of separation knows about them.  In this context, I am always scouting for opportunities for my potential clients.  Okay. Especially for women.  The  sooner the historical professional gender gap bites the dust, the happier I will be.

My latest “find” is corporate governance, or “gouvernance d’entreprise” in French.  For the past twenty years, my shtik has been encouraging women to pursue getting on corporate boards; now I realize I should be recommending one better: corporate governance advisor, where you may have the role of being on several boards.  Although corporate governance usually starts as a salaried in-house position, it is also possible to pursue it independently as a consultant for multiple companies.   The latter requires a mature career in all aspects of governance as well as polish in both networking and communications.

Briefly, governance concerns the systemic manner in which rules, norms and actions are decided, developed and implemented within a corporation so that all stakeholders are held accountable (compliance).   Corporate governance, more specifically, involves the structure and composition of boards, guidelines for running boards and managing relations with shareholders.

Governance’s intent is holistic in approach and requires that the practitioner have not only financial acumen and negotiation skills but also a panoply of other skills where women usually excel: participative leadership, creative problem solving, social networking, and 360-degree collaboration. (An MBA or legal background would be desirable.)

I had the privilege recently of an informal breakfast meeting with Viviane Neiter, an internationally recognized independent consultant in “governance, shareholder and press relations”.  Her field of action includes many of the top forty French corporations, known as the CAC Quarante, as well as companies in Belgium and Canada.

Neiter pointed out to me that the French Government’s 2013 Copé-Zimmerman law requires that 40 percent of board members in France must be women by 2017.  In compliance, French corporations are currently scrambling to identify qualified females in order to meet this new quota.

One of Neiter’s most important roles as a freelance consultant in corporate governance is talent scouting. She is – consciously or unconsciously – always on the lookout for women who can bring fresh blood, new angles and varied perspectives to the corporate boards she deals with.

Corporate governance consultancy is one of those careers one grows into after sufficient in-house experience. For women who already have board membership on their CVs, I suggest you consider strategizing your career in view of evolving into corporate governance consultancy as a desirable young senior career evolution.