Skip to main content

Women on Boards

Work with Yale to launch a successful board seat search.

More women are more interested in working on boards as independent directors. Research shows having a critical mass of women on a board leads to higher quality decision making, reduced operational risk, faster innovation, and better financial results on many key metrics. Global legislation is increasingly requiring boards to fill new board seats with diverse and highly skilled candidates that understand new technologies and more complex business challenges. Boards have finally reached an important pivotal point in their composition and skill requirements that creates opportunities for women.

This program is designed to help you launch your search for a seat on a board, understand the skills required of board directors, and acquire the insights necessary to best serve the ever-evolving needs of today’s boards. Yale’s Women on Boards program uses the most complex of board scenarios, large corporate boards, to help inform your unique path. Public, private, or non-profit board service, big or small: learn how to adeptly navigate the intricacies of this governing body.

Woman in women on boards executive education program.
Women in women on boards executive education program.
Woman at executive education certificate ceremony.

The Yale SOM Women on Boards program offers everything you need to know to skew yourself for success to pursue a board position. If you are serious about wanting to join a Board, dive into this program first, secure the tools and knowledge you need to be successful, and make the investment in yourself. You will leave feeling well prepared to seriously pursue the Board position of your dreams!

Patricia Russo

Key Benefits

Becoming a board director helps women leaders acquire and contribute invaluable strategic perspective to prepare to succeed in the c-suite, form important professional “sponsoring” relationships across industries and sectors, and demonstrate highly visible, unique subject matter expertise to expedite advancement.

  • Deepen understanding of critical skills needed and key trends facing boards today
  • Gain practical insider’s insights into the board director search process
  • Build a toolkit of resources to launch a successful board seat search
  • Develop a long-term professional support network

Breaking into the boardroom can be challenging for anyone. Yale’s Women on Boards program gives its participants guided preparation for the board search process. Prior to beginning, you will complete pre-work, which includes drafting a board CV that will be updated during and after the program using input from faculty, executive coaches, and peers. You will develop a customized search plan during the course and meet with your executive coach afterwards to maintain progress post-program. 

About the Program

What to Expect
  • Learn about the different types of boards and key responsibilities for board service
  • Create a plan to build experience that makes you a competitive board candidate
  • Participate in one-on-one executive coaching and peer group accountability focused on your board search
  • Develop a board resume that emphasizes the skills most desired by board’s today
  • Engage with executive search firms that specialize in searching for women on boards
  • Get input from experienced board directors, search firms, and corporate governance experts to understand what you need to know for a board search and for the role
Who Should Attend

Senior corporate or non-profit women executives currently in or preparing for the C-Suite, or who are preparing for a career shift into board service and those who support them. 

Agenda

Below is a sample of what you can expect to experience in the Women on Boards program. Content and topics are subject to change

  • Boards in the 21st Century: What Makes Great Boards Great?
  • Secrets to an Effective Board CV

  • Key Concepts in Corporate Strategy 
  • Conflict Management on Boards
  • CEO Compensation: Attracting, Motivating, and Retaining Top C-suite Talent
  • From Green to Gold: Strategies for Sustainability
  • Executive Search Firm Speakers
  • Building Board Financial Oversight Skills
  • Essentials of Board Corporate Financial Accounting
  • Building Effective Networks
  • Women on Boards: What You Need to Know Going In
  • Cyber Security and Corporate Governance
  • Ethical Dilemmas, Conflicts of Interest, and Corporate Boards
  • Leading Your Leaders and Succession Planning
  • Firing Back: Overcoming Adversity

Faculty

Faculty and lecturers are subject to change.

Faculty Director

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies; Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management; Founder and CEO of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute

Areas of Expertise: CEOs, Corporate Governance, Ethics, Leadership, Workplace Issues

Read the full bio

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld served as full tenured professor at Emory's Goizueta Business School for a decade and a professor at the Harvard Business School for a decade, and is currently the senior associate dean of leadership programs as well as the Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management for the Yale School of Management, as well as founder and president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, a nonprofit educational and research institute focused on CEO leadership and corporate governance.

Professor Sonnenfeld's related research has been published in 100 scholarly articles which appeared in the leading academic journals in management such as Administrative Sciences Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Organizational Behavior, Social Forces, Human Relations, and Human Resource Management. He has also authored eight books, including The Hero's Farewell, an award-winning study of CEO succession, and another best seller, Firing Back, a study on leadership resilience in the face of adversity.

Learn more

Daylian Cain
Daylian Cain

Senior Lecturer in Negotiations & Leadership

Areas of Expertise: Behavioral Economics, Conflicts of Interest, Corporate Governance, Ethics, Leadership, Negotiations, Organizational Behavior, Social Enterprise

Read the full bio

Daylian M. Cain, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer of Negotiations & Leadership at the Yale School of Management. Prior to joining Yale in 2007, Cain was the Russell Sage Fellow of Behavioral Economics at Harvard. Originally hailing from Nova Scotia, Cain is a former Canada science scholar. He has three master’s degrees and —from Carnegie Mellon— a Ph.D. in Business. He likes to say that he focuses on “why smart people do dumb things.”

Fun Facts: Cain has appeared as a special guest on National Geographic’s TV show Brain Games, and his poker avatar (“Raising Cain”) is one of the opponents you may face at AdvancedPokerTraining.com.

Learn more

Fiona Scott-Morton
Fiona Scott Morton

Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics 

Areas of Expertise: Antitrust & Competition Policy, Behavioral Economics, Regulation

Read the full bio

Fiona M. Scott Morton is the Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics at the Yale School of Management (SOM), where she has been on the faculty since 1999. Fiona holds courtesy appointments at the rank of Professor from the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Law (Adjunct), Public Health (Health Policy), and Economics (FAS). Her area of academic research is empirical industrial organization, with a focus on empirical studies of competition in areas such as pricing, entry, and product differentiation. Her published articles range widely across industries, from magazines, to shipping, to pharmaceuticals, to internet retailing, and are published in leading economics journals. From 2011-12, Professor Scott Morton served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economics at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where she helped enforce the nation’s antitrust laws. At Yale SOM she teaches courses in the area of competitive strategy. She served as Associate Dean from 2007-10 and won the School’s teaching award twice. She has served in an editing role on various academic economics journals, has won several research grants from the National Science Foundation, and is a Research Associate at NBER. Professor Scott Morton has a BA from Yale and a PhD from MIT. She is a frequent speaker at seminars and conferences across the United States and Europe.

Learn more

Kelly Shue
Kelly Shue

Professor of Finance

Areas of Expertise: Behavioral Economics, Behavioral Finance, CEOs, Corporate Finance, Corporate Governance, Elections, Financial Reporting, Leadership, Mergers & Acquisitions, Social Enterprise, Social Networks

Read the full bio

Professor Shue's academic interests lie at the intersection of behavioral economics and empirical corporate finance. Her research has explored executive social networks, compensation and promotions, sequential decision errors, M&A, corporate social responsibility, persuasion in corporate financial reporting, and errors in voting. Her research has been featured in numerous news outlets including CNN, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal, and has been awarded the AQR Insight Award, the Wharton School-WRDS Award for Best Empirical Finance Paper, and the UBS Global Asset Management Award for Research in Investments. She serves as an editor at the Review of Finance and associate editor at the Journal of Finance. Before joining Yale, Professor Shue taught MBA Corporate Finance at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.

Read more

Grace Zandarski
Grace Zandarski

Assistant Professor Adjunct of Acting, Yale School of Drama

Read the full bio

Grace Zandarski is a faculty member of the Acting Department at Yale School of Drama where she has taught Voice since 2002, specializing in Advanced Vocal Technique and Text for 2nd and 3rd Year Actors. She has coached numerous Yale Rep and YSD productions including Cymbeline (Evan Yionoulis, director), Caucasian Chalk Circle (Liz Diamond, dir.), Hamlet starring Paul Giamatti (James Bundy, dir.), The Winter’s Tale (Liz Diamond, dir.), Romeo and Juliet (Shana Cooper, dir.), and The Three Sisters (Les Waters, dir.), among many others.  

Her New York coaching credits include Mike Nichols’ Death of a Salesman and Betrayal on Broadway, The Dance and the Railroad (Signature, May Adrales, dir.), The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… (The Public, Michael Greif dir.), Homebody/Kabul (BAM, Frank Galati, dir.), in addition to numerous individual coaching credits for actors appearing on and off Broadway, in film, and on television.  

Grace has taught master classes for the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab and the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab. She was named Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework in 1998 in the first certification program. She was one of the core faculty members of The Actors Center, and The Studio NY, and also served on the faculty of A.R.T./MXAT (Harvard’s Advanced Actor Training Program with the Moscow Art Theatre). In addition to YSD, she also teaches at Fordham University. Her work outside of actor training includes individual business and professional coaching as well as workshops on Voice, Presence, and Improv for Executives. 

Learn more

Application Information

Program Details

Registration closes: April 27, 2023
Program Dates: May 25, 2023 (live online) and June 11-16, 2023 (on campus)
Program fee: $12,250 - Includes lodging and most meals
Contact: Xiuling Li, Managing Director of Learning Partnerships

How to Apply

The application requires participants to submit a current CV and complete three questions about your state of readiness to serve on a board. The three questions are listed below. You can submit a PDF of your LinkedIn profile, if desired. It takes about 20-30 minutes to complete the full application.

1.  Why do you want to serve as an independent director on a board and on what kind of board are you interested in serving? 

2.  Please describe why you believe you are qualified to serve on a board of directors?

3.  What is your subject matter expertise or unique value proposition to contribute to a board?

Program Fee Assistance
  • 15% reduction in program fee for groups of 3+
  • 15% reduction in program fee if you have previously participated in a Yale Executive Education Program with Yale SOM, ExecOnline, or 2U/GetSmarter 

Apply code at time of registration

  • NONPROFIT – 15% reduction in program fee for those who work at a nonprofit
  • YALEGRAD – 15% reduction in program fee for Yale University or Yale School of Management graduates

Yale School of Management is proud to offer funding support for veterans interested in this program. For more information about financial aid options and eligibility please visit the Executive Education Veterans Benefits page.

Refund & Cancellation

Refunds are allowed for live online and in-person programs if requested in writing to the Yale Executive Education Registrar.  The Yale Executive Education Cancellation Terms are as follows:

Request for change in registration/cancellation Refund provided
30 days, or more, prior to Program start date 100% Program Fee Refund Provided
15-29 days prior to Program start date 50% Program Fee Refund Provided
14 days, or less, prior to Program start date No Refund Provided

Yale reserves the right to cancel or reschedule programs if enrollment is deemed insufficient or health and safety would otherwise be jeopardized.  Yale School of Management is not responsible for any travel or incidental costs incurred by a registrant if a program becomes cancelled. If a program is canceled by Yale, a full refund of fees paid will be processed within 30 days. 

While it is our goal to deliver our programs as scheduled, we may postpone programs, deliver them online, or cancel them. If one of our programs has a scheduling change, we will notify those affected as soon as possible.   

FAQs

Here are some of our most frequently asked questions to help you prepare for the program. For more helpful information, please visit our Participant Information page.

How do I explain the benefits of the certificate program to my supervisor?
Download the Sample Justification Letter.

Where is the program taking place?
One day of the program will be delivered live online. The program week is scheduled to take place on campus at Edward P. Evans Hall, Yale School of Management, 165 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT.

Where can I make a hotel reservation?
Hotel accommodations at a local hotel are included in your program fee.

Am I allowed to record sessions or presentations during the program?
Recording during sessions is not permitted; however, some live online sessions may be recorded by Yale and available upon request.

Additional Information

Will my company permit me to join a board?

Some organizations prohibit their employees from joining a board of directors. This may be for potential conflicts of interest or confidentiality concerns. If your plan is to serve on a board while with your current employer, it is wise to consult with your employee handbook or HR staff regarding serving on a board of directors. 

Video Recordings

Open House for Yale Women on Boards, featuring Paula Volent and Kavitha Bindra.

Watch video

Pathways to Getting the Gig: A Conversation with Corporate Governance Expert, Betsy Atkins

Watch video

Testimonials

“The WOB program was exceptional. It provided superb education on a wide span of topics and a remarkable “and fun” group of peers. I had no idea how much I did not yet know about board service and how better equipped I would be at the end of an intensely productive week. Thank you, Yale SOM!” – Virginia L. Bennett, Senior Director – International Programs, CNA and Former Acting Assistant Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

Read more

“I had very high expectations from the WOB program, both in terms of what I would acquire in class and what I would learn from the other participants. The week exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I am not an easy grader, but I give this program an A+. It was informative, thought provoking, rich with discussion and distinguished experts; all of which created an amazingly smart and generous environment. The program took us on a wonderful journey throughout the week and then left us exhausted but still yearning for more.

Professor Jeff Sonnenfeld was (and is) absolutely brilliant! He made learning fun and exciting. He is one of the fastest and the wittiest thinking/talking people I have ever met. His ability to remember events and names is mind-blowing. The creator of the program, Lisa Hamm Kammert, deserves major kudos for her vision and her passion. Lisa’s care and diligence in the selection process brought together a group of strangers, who bonded quickly and will stick together longer than Krazy Glue ever could. Tim Shea made all the administrative details look easy by his commitment to excellence and his tireless efforts to meet all our demands.

I am a new and improved person at the end of my WOB week; a sentiment shared by each of the participants.” Yakut Akman, former Chief Third Party Management Officer, Citigroup

I recommend the WOB experience without hesitation. The program, including the top-notch curriculum, teachers, mentors, guest stars, and fellow attendees exceeded all expectations. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld’s devotion to equality shone through every aspect of the seminar. Jeff’s depth of knowledge about corporate governance, CEOs, and Boards of Directors combined with his outstanding ability to integrate all of it into one jam-packed week simply stunned me and my classmates. (All of whom are now friends.) The WOB week flew by, and I came away thinking it was more than worth the investment. Plus, we had so much fun every day!” – Lynne Federman

The program provided an understanding of the role of a board member in the current environment and how to begin a process of seeking a board seat. It provided the tools to create an informed plan of actionable steps to improve my skills where needed and to create a strategy to pursue my goal.” – Amy Lazarus, Chief Operating Officer, SPP Capital Partners, LLC 

I highly recommend Women on Boards to those seeking a high caliber, intense management class that is sure to propel you personally and professionally.” – Nicole Russo, President and CEO, Microboard Processing, Inc. 

The Yale women on Boards program was perfect for my interests and giving me background, information, and inspiration in my search. The teachers were outstanding and working with colleagues helped to build our knowledge and bios. I would recommend for anyone at the stage in mid- to later-career that is contemplating board work.” – Holly Hotchner, President, National Women's History Museum and Hotchner Consulting

“The Women on Boards program tapped into Yale's tremendous resources - its faculty, network, thought leadership - to curate an ideal experience for Board-ready candidates. The course confirmed that I'm on the right path and created a community of colleagues and friends!” – Carol Van Den Hende, MBA

“Life is a series of choices! Yale SOM Women on Boards was one of the most significant decisions made during my life journey!” – Dr. Fontaine Timmer

My WOB Story

Testimonial by Daniela Ortega Sosa

I applied to the May 2019 Women on Boards (WOB) cohort after months of thorough research on the different programs available both in Mexico (country of residency) and the United States and strongly believe that I could not have chosen a better program: I knew it before attending and confirmed it both during the program and afterwards!

My selection of the program was based on many factors but there are two that merit a comment. First, it is a very comprehensive program that, while targeted to women, maintains an appropriate balance between classes that are board- or corporate governance-related and classes covering gender issues and/or more specifically addressed to women.

Second and a main driver of my decision, the objective of the WOB program is to prepare attendees for the Board role; it does not assume that you already have a Board seat or require you to hold such role in order to be admitted. Although this may seem logical (i.e., first you prepare for the role, and then you accept the role), it is a common practice for most programs to require some sort of Board experience.

The combination of these two factors led me to select the WOB Program, because it offered me a complete curriculum and a great opportunity to connect with other women who were considering transitioning (or already in the process of transitioning) from holding senior executive roles to exercising influence from the boardroom.

On the date that WOB started I was excited but anxious. I had recently terminated a 16 year tenure at a major global financial institution, with the goal to become an active and modern non-executive director. Indeed, my participation in WOB was my first formal and significant action in support of this new professional cycle. Any signs of anxiety disappeared upon meeting the Faculty and my classmates, who were open, caring, curious, respectful, and outspoken from the beginning. This was the preamble to a week full of deep and engaging discussions, surrounded by superb and qualified Faculty members, panelists, and administrative staff, whose main mission was for us to have a great experience and be able to get the best out of the program.

Attending WOB changed my views of executive and board leadership in many ways. On the executive side, I am now more conscious that maintaining an open and collaborative line of communication with the Board is pivotal but does not shield you from being fired if they get impatient with the company’s results or misunderstand the intended strategy. Consequently, it is important to ‘tell your story’!

In terms of board leadership, I realized the many challenges behind gender diversity. As one of the panelists shared with us, being selected is tough enough but it is not all; most of the time you are the only woman in the room, which can be intimidatory and demands being able to speak up and to do it loudly (if needed)! This is why it was emphasized that it is not sufficient to appoint one woman to the Board, but companies should seek to maintain a critical mass (2 or 3 female Directors); in fact, it is not until such mass is achieved that the gender element is no longer perceived as a diversity issue.

We are undergoing a major transformation of the Director role and its importance, given the level of responsibility involved. The expectations at stake are high and the engagement demands are constantly increasing, which is why strong leadership skills are key. Through this integral program we learned how to confidently make hard-to-reverse choices and maneuver through uncertainty and adversity.

The Yale WOB program taught me that in order to remain competitive in today's markets, companies must be able to achieve organizational agility, which requires them to have leaders (including board members) who are perceptive, sensitive, curious, and exercise high values of integrity, all of which were covered throughout the program.

In sum, I had an invaluable and productive week at Yale during my participation in the May 2019 WOB edition. It was an extraordinary learning and networking experience that left me better prepared for the corporate governance role for which I was subsequently appointed, as well as for any other similar appointments with other companies to follow.

Thank you, Yale SOM, the WOB Faculty, and my dear colleagues for this fulfilling experience!