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Step onto the Board

Supporting women to achieve board appointments in both HE and other sectors.

Successful culture change begins at the top of an organisation, and while the gender balance within these roles is now starting to be addressed, there is still some way to go. In a diverse and competitive world, it is essential to bring the best talent to our boards regardless of characteristics such as race, gender, disability or social background. Women leaders make a significant contribution to the HE sector and we are committed to addressing and improving gender balance at a leadership level, including breaking down the barriers for women to enter the boardroom.

Step onto the board was piloted in June 2018 as part of the Board Diversification Project at Advance HE, commissioned by HEFCE, HEFCW and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, to support greater diversity within higher education boards. The workshop was designed based on feedback from Advance HE’s Women onto Boards alumni that suggested further support for those considering a board appointment was wanted in order to develop the right profile and skills.

Step onto the Board responds to this feedback by supporting those who identify as women to develop and present their skills through CV development, resilience building and navigating the culture of boards.

This workshop includes sessions to support participants develop their knowledge and skills, as well as their profile to ensure it meets the expectations of hiring boards. This will include advice on the practical tools, networks and organisations available to identify board appointments, along with developing leadership presence and purpose.

Governance events

We have a range of programmes and events designed for everyone, from those wanting an introduction to Governance in HE to those looking to expand their networks or update their knowledge of the sector.

View the Calendar

Gender balance on the Board

This year, Advance HE have published Frameworks providing guidance for executive search firms and higher education providers working together on board appointments and diversity principles for constructing further particulars for board vacancies:

At the beginning of June the THE published an article on the art of hiring female leaders. The author, Joanna Read, principal of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, considers the influences involved in the recruitment of senior leaders. As with any successful culture change it has to start from the top, and as the Board is responsible for hiring the senior leadership team it is key to any change. If we can change the composition of higher education Boards to include more women we can start to change a lot more within the institution. 

Read the article

You may also find these other references on diversity at leadership levels useful:

We must continue our focus on gender and look at the true diversity of those leading our businesses ... we need leaders who come from a wide range of backgrounds, each bringing different skills and views to the table, creating boardrooms that truly mirror our society. Without these different outlooks and diversity of skills and experiences, our businesses will simply not thrive in this fast paced changing competitive world."

Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman, KPMG in the UK
Women on Boards Davies Review 5-year Summary


Board Structures, Roles and Responsibilities

This session will include a review and discussion of the following topics:

+ Board structures and key relationships
+ Board sub-committees
+ The role and responsibilities of the board
+ The role and responsibilities of board members
+ The role of the secretary
+ Support and help available to you

The session will conclude with a group exercise navigating through an agenda for a board meeting.

Board Confidence

This session will explore in an interactive way the so-called “softer skills” involved in stepping up onto the Board. Rachael will share her own story about stepping up and we will reflect on the importance of leadership identity and presence for senior women.

We will exchange ideas on how best to approach senior level leadership, and Board level contribution – relishing the challenge whilst staying true to who you are.

"We are the leaders we have been waiting for."

Board-level CV Workshop

The aim of this session is to equip you with the tools and knowledge to feel confident in the board level recruitment process and to understand how your experience and skills can be of value to a board and how to present this effectively to hiring boards. This interactive session will provide you with the tools to critically evaluate your CV and structure it to highlight the skills and experiences valued most by boards.

Navigating Board Culture

This panel discussion will explore the challenges and opportunities in understanding and navigating the culture of a board. The session will allow participants the opportunity to raise the questions that would be most helpful to receive clarity on in an open and safe environment.

The panel will bring a range of expertise and experience in non-executive positions and in understanding the dynamics of the boardroom. They will provide their tips and insights as well as answers.


Rachael Ross
Workshop Facilitator and Leadership and Diversity specialist, Schneider-Ross and Associate, Advance HE

With an academic background in modern languages from Cambridge University followed by the early part of her career in industrial relations and change management in the oil industry, Rachael founded the diversity consultancy Schneider-Ross in 1989. Since then she has worked with senior leaders in the private and public sector to support and challenge them as they take a step up into executive level leadership.

In the last ten years she has enjoyed working in higher education, and her work with Advance HE involves her working with delegates from across all parts of the sector in the UK and beyond. She is programme director for Leadership Matters, a senior leadership programme for women in higher education, and is a director/trustee of three Boards.  She has carried out independent Board evaluations for Crisis, National Grid Tate and Lyle amongst others. 

She has worked on bespoke leadership development programmes and coaching assignments with the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle and Durham. Working with small groups and 1:1 with executives and Boards she supports and challenges senior leaders to do the foundation building work of clarifying leadership purpose, values and identity, and through this developing growing in leadership presence and resilience.

In 2014 she published best practice research commissioned by the Leadership Foundation, Equality Change Unit and others on how vice-chancellors are leading change on diversity. She enjoys working across organisation and global boundaries, and is a leading writer and campaigner for gender equality. She plays a leadership role in her own local community, campaigning for social and political change in the UK.

Rachel Ross

Upcoming Events