“It can be difficult to be taken seriously as a younger female leader” Sarah Waddington CBE CDir Chart.PR, NED, Wadds Inc.
Non-executive director (NED) Sarah Waddington CBE CDir Chart.PR, made the leap from PR agency boss to non-executive director. She believes that completing the Chartered Director qualification has given her a unique differentiation in the marketplace.
I’ll be blunt about it, the NED world is awash with white, grey-haired males. This can be off-putting and make it difficult to be taken seriously as a younger female leader; especially one with a northern accent.
While I shouldn’t have to prove myself any more than a man, having the IoD’s Chartered Director Qualification demonstrates both my expertise and my commitment to the role. It also shows that being a good NED is not only about experience.
My journey to the boardroom began in the world of communications, where for nearly 25 years I worked with organisations to articulate their purpose, engage stakeholders, create value and deliver social impact. In some respects it’s what we now call ESG.
Having a background in management and communications is a powerful skillset in a professional advisory role. Directors need strong leadership capabilities; to design and embed vision and values; to engage with stakeholders; and to focus on risk and crisis preparedness. All of these, as well as futures and foresights work and public affairs, sit firmly within the strategic public relations professional toolkit.
From university I worked my way up the career ladder and was leading a network agency when the recession hit. Although this was a daunting time for business, I made the bold decision to open my own PR, marketing and management consultancy. Taking the helm wasn’t an issue, but I wanted to be absolutely sure about my governance processes so I signed up to the IoD.
Initially, I didn’t put much effort into my membership, which meant I didn’t get much out of it. When I did, the results were transformational. I joined the IoD North East (North) branch as a volunteer and was later elected chair. This was helpful in developing my network and becoming informed on policy matters. It was also where I learned about the IoD’s professional development, which set me on the journey to becoming a Chartered Director.
When I decided to close my agency and become a full-time NED with Wadds Inc, it was the Chartered Director Qualification that gave me the competencies and knowledge to do it with confidence.
Being both a Chartered Director and a chartered PR practitioner means I bring a holistic and comprehensive perspective to an organisation. I enjoy horizon scanning and focusing on change drivers to help my clients modernise. Equipped with my communications insight and this unique qualification I am able to add significant value at the boardroom table both in terms of understanding governance and in spotting gaps and opportunities. As they say, when you love your job, it doesn’t feel like work.