Manage Smarter 168 — Michele Ashby: Female Leadership in the Boardroom

Michele Ashby on on the Manage Smarter show from SalesFuel

Listen to this Episode

In this episode, Audrey, Lee and Michele discuss female leadership in the boardroom:
  • Why there aren’t more women on corporate boards
  • What training and certifications she recommends for leaders who want to qualify to be on a board and what boards are looking for
  • Her advice to female leaders on the environment in the board room
  • Her advice on bitcoin as she is an expert in mining and commodities

We need more women on boards! The opportunity has never been greater, as boards are seeking more diversity.”

Michele Ashby

Connect with Michele Ashby on female leadership in the boardroom:

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Michele Ashby- Female Leadership in the Boardroom

00:32:34

This episode on female leadership in the boardroom of Manage Smarter is brought to you by SalesFuel Sales Manager Training. Based on the sales managers guide to greatness, it's a 36 lesson on-​demand program to upskill your sales manager so they can execute your vision and drive consistent revenue growth. Watch a free lesson and find out more at salesfuel​.com/​smt. 

Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast, with C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong. We're glad you're here for discussions on new ways to manage smarter, hire, develop, and retain talent, improve results, and propel team performance to new heights. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey Strong: Welcome to Manage Smarter, everyone. We are so glad that you're here today. I'm Audrey Strong, the vice president of communications here at SalesFuel.

  1. Lee Smith: And I'm C. Lee Smith, the president and CEO of SalesFuel. And here we are for year four of the Manage Smarter Show. And this year, we're on audio and video, that's exciting.

Audrey Strong: Very exciting. And hopefully I don't break the camera lens. Hopefully this doesn't crack into pieces. We're so glad that you're all here. 

  1. Lee Smith: Hopefully they're looking at you instead of looking at me. 

Audrey Strong: And welcome to our guest, Michelle Ashby. She's the CEO and founder of ACE LLC, Ashby Consulting Enterprises out of Denver, Colorado. Hi, Michelle. 

Michelle Ashby: Hi, Audrey. Thank you. And hi, C. Lee, how are you?

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be seen. I hope you’re well, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: I am. I like your background. That looks so great. I'm jealous. 

  1. Lee Smith: Audrey did that for me. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. One is coming for me, I just don't have it yet.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, it looks great.

  1. Lee Smith: Thanks.

Audrey Strong:  Well, thanks. So, we've got a great topic today with Michelle, women and boards. We have a lot of questions for you. I want to tell you a bit about Michelle, though, everybody. We're so glad that you're here. Focus is on educating, supporting, and teaching women how to attain corporate board positions through her ACE board certification program for women. Michelle has a diverse background, including 30 years as a gold specialist and analyst, financial expert, independent corporate director, and successful entrepreneur. You have got so many amazing things going on over the years, it's almost mind blowing. And you were recently awarded, Michelle, one of the top 25 most powerful women in business for Colorado for your work. You've trained more than 1,000 women to get on corporate board. So, congratulations to you on that. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Actually, my goal is to train a thousand women and I'm halfway there. This last year really catapulted this up to almost I'm really close to that 500 mark.

Audrey Strong: Well, we wanted to start kind of general. Lee wanted to start with his question. 

  1. Lee Smith: A lot of people, for the uninitiated, they only know about what boards do based on what they read in the business section of the newspaper, what they see on TV shows on TV. So, what exactly does a board member do and what does that look like?

Michelle Ashby: So speaking as a an experienced board member, I've been on six corporate boards. So about 20 years collectively in the boardroom, and we make the biggest decision. We have the power over the budgets. We have the power over the strategy. In a public company, really, our role is to represent, actually, it's about eight different parties. So, if we include all the stakeholders, right, it's our customers, it's our workforce, it's our management, executive, our shareholders, our investors, all of our stakeholders, the environment that we're doing our business in, et cetera, et cetera. So, it's a tough gig, because as you're sitting there considering another decision, you're representing all of those entities. And remember that it's a group decision. You may not agree with everyone, but in the end it's a group decision. It's not yours.

  1. Lee Smith: And we have a lot of sales managers watching on the Sales Experts Channel today. And I imagine then that if you can learn the skills that are required to be an excellent board member, that certainly makes you more promotable into company leadership, wouldn’t you think?

Michelle Ashby: Absolutely. And I look at it with a lens of leadership characteristics. So, when I'm looking for candidates for women that I'm going to train, I want women who have leadership skills. And to me, that's the courage to step into these leadership roles and make those tough decisions and be able to represent in those difficult situations. And so it is a different set of skills. And so it's one of those that, as a sales manager, you're going to want to be mentored in moving up into those other leadership roles. And then what's your passion? That's the other thing. Because I have passion that backs up the reason why I do things, and I believe that's why I have been successful throughout my career.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. You said that what, only 20% of US boards are women. Do you mean 20% only contain a woman or are all women?

Michelle Ashby: All women. So, there are still a lot of boards out there that have no women on them. And that statistic is, yeah, it's like the general for all public companies. For private corporations, we don't have those statistics, just by the way.

  1. Lee Smith: Why do you think that is? 

Michelle Ashby: Well, because they don't have to report. Their financials are not public and they don't have to tell us.

  1. Lee Smith: Well, going back, why only 20% of women on board?

Michelle Ashby: Well, to be honest with you, we just started this process recently in the last — there's a photograph that I show to all my groups, which is from 1975, that shows Catherine Graham as the only female, first female on the board of the Associated Press. And so, you know, it's only in the last few decades that women have started to be invited and appointed to the boardroom. So, it's a process, right. 

Audrey Strong: So, talk about the certification program. I mean, you said there's four different programs and pieces to this. Can you talk a little bit about what a woman who aspires to this might be setting themselves up for?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. So, there's what I call board governance, you have to learn that. Financial acumen, and a lot of women go, oh, I don't have finance so don't pick me. But only 25% of board appointments are people who are financial experts. So that means 75% of them are not, but regardless, it's really good for you to understand financial statements and know what people are talking about. We cover financial acumen. The other one is risks and responsibilities. In a public company, of course you know there's the opportunity where you could be breaking regulations or out of compliance. You have to be aware of that. And then the other piece is, for women in particular, how to get on a board. So it's really putting together your own playbook as to what these you're targeting, and then how are you going to go about trying to get on that board.

  1. Lee Smith: As a sales manager, it actually gives you a bit of a leg up, because you're used to having to make numbers every month, every quarter, and you have to have a certain amount of business acumen then to be able to solve problems for people through the sales process. So actually, if you're a sales manager, embrace that, that actually gives you a leg up because you actually understand and you're comfortable talking about money.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. And I think you're hitting on some really good points that are the other characteristics like sales, as you are so well-​versed, not everyone is a good salesperson, a good salesperson is also excellent at communication and getting those ideas across. They have to do their homework in order to be able to sell the product that they're going to be selling. They do have to understand the finances because that's going to be the question that people ask them, and they have to have that pencil sharp and then understand what those nuances are. And so those are all super strong characteristics that will serve a person well who has those skills. 

  1. Lee Smith: It's not just communicating then with clients or something like that. Once you get into management, being able to communicate internally becomes super important, and even more so when you're a board member, I would assume.

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. And then being able to communicate. What I say is it's a peer-​to-​peer and it's an executive level, and there's a different language. I call it the executive vernacular, so it's important. That's why mentorship from other leaders is so important because those are the people who can help you, teach you, and get you into that executive role, with the correct and acceptable, you know what I'm saying, kinds of things. Because it's a team, and there's specific rules right there, but there's not a lot of books written around what those are. 

  1. Lee Smith: And then there's unwritten rules, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, exactly.

Audrey Strong: We were talking last night on the phone about our interview with you today. And one of the things that we talked about was the misconceptions by the wider public, and maybe even business people and our peers, about boards and that it's a patronage appointment, and it's my second cousin or the CEO's, whatever, twice removed, who has no skillset related at all to the company. And then also the idea of boards being just a rubber stamp for golden parachutes and other things. Can you talk a little bit about how you help your certification candidates separate those type of scenarios going for an organization, where it's really set up not in that way?

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. Yeah. So what you're talking about is the whole collegiality of it, right? And there's actually a reason that that happens. If I'm starting a new company and I am excited about it and I want to go in a certain direction, I'm going to pick the people I know, and people who know me, and people who support me. So, it usually almost always starts out that way, and then evolves into, okay, now we've grown and we need this other thing. When you go public, you have regulations and you're scrutinized dramatically. You are being watched and it is a lot of work. I can tell you that before I go to a board meeting, my board book is typically 185 to 300 pages that I need to read before I can get into that. And then we do committee meetings before the board meetings. So, a lot of the work is done before you ever get in the boardroom. It might be site visits. My background's in mining, so we go to the mine sites and spend a couple days with everybody. And then we do committee meetings, and then we do other meetings. And then by the time we get to that agenda at the boardroom, it might be pretty short and sweet, but there's a lot behind it. So many hours that have gone into it before we ever get there. Does that answer the question? 

Audrey Strong: Yes. That makes sense. Lee, we had to his point yesterday said, yeah, but what do you do if you finally get — I've taken your certification, you've helped me network, I get on a board, and it's a hostile board. The CEP doesn’t like me.

  1. Lee Smith: You got one shareholder or whatever that just is raising hell and doesn't like the CEO, whatever, it's the TV drama stuff, right. I mean, how often does that actually happen?

Michelle Ashby: Well, of all the boards I've been on and all the years I've been in, I've never had that happen in real life. I think it's rare. I know it does happen but it's very rare. And typically, you're not going to see just one rogue person, you'll probably see potentially two or three. So, if we have a disgruntled shareholder, they're going to try and replace two or three seats on the board because they know they're are not going to make an effect with just one person. They need to have some bench strength there. 

  1. Lee Smith: Well, that goes to the importance of alliance building, which is like, once you're a sales manager, you realize then the importance of building alliance then with other departments and with key management and everything like that. So, how do you advise people on how to be better skilled at building alliances? What kind of tips could you offer somebody on that?

Michelle Ashby: That's a really good question, because I recognize just this morning that there was a question that came up. I had a board meeting yesterday, and we had a new person on the board meeting who was making a presentation. I realized he probably knew a colleague of mine, actually, one of the women who went through my certification. I said, "How do you know her?" And he said, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what I realize is this is the executive vernacular question. When you overhear someone saying something that you know someone or something about, that's the kind of the key question is, oh, how do you know her? I knew her from blah, blah, blah. And that's kind of a subtle key of forming that alliance, because once we see that recognition in each other of that similarity, that checks a trust box. So what you're talking about is the very basic thing of having to have the trust box checked.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. That makes sense. I think we lost Lee, but he'll come back. That's okay.

Michelle Ashby: I wanted him to hear that answer because–

Audrey Strong: He'll hear it. We'll keep going. He'll come back into the room. You say that the gender diversity on boards improves outcomes. What specific outcomes are those and how does that work?

Michelle Ashby: So, the research has shown, over the years, and we're going to continue to see this because it is such a new factor, it's kind of like when we're dealing with a new virus, we're collecting data as we go along and we get to unlearn more as we go along. Return on investment, there have been studies that have — if you have three women on your board, that your return on investor is actually the highest. And the last number I saw was between 17 and 27% better than if you have no women on your board. So, that was a Stanford study that was done a while ago. 

Audrey Strong: That's amazing. 

Michelle Ashby: And the other parts that are a little bit harder to measure is retention, it's HR issues, what's the culture like? So, culturally within the company, that can be a benefit . We're trying to measure those things. This is what I believe, I believe that the outcomes are better for all the stakeholders. So, your executive team, your management team, your employees, your shareholders, all the way, clients, jurisdictions that you're doing business in, I believe that they have better interaction with the company when there are women on the board in helping to make those decisions at the very top.

Audrey Strong: That makes sense. Welcome back, Lee.

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be back. That was very weird. We had a little bit of a power outage here.

Michelle Ashby: Oh, you did?

Audrey Strong: Wow. Okay. Glad you're back.

  1. Lee Smith: But we're back. When you're coaching women to become board members, are you advising them then to be like the men and get in there and mix it up with the men and play the same game by the same rules, or are you advising them to do it differently because they’re women?

Michelle Ashby: Let's neutralize that a little bit, because we all function in a patriarchal model, and that's just the reality. And whether they know that or not, I do point that out. And so we know what that pyramid looks like, right, CEO, and then the C level underneath, and the VPs, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that can be male or female regardless. What I do say is think like a man. And that's more in regards to their confidence, C. Lee. Because here's the research we know, when a man and a woman who are equally skilled and experienced are offered a promotion, the man is much more likely to raise his hand and say, "Pick me, I'll give it a go," when he has 60% of what he needs to do that job. The woman–

  1. Lee Smith: Or less.

Michelle Ashby: Or less. So what is the real statistic? 

Lee Smith: Maybe 20%. 

Michelle Ashby: Wow, okay. See, that's really good to know.

  1. Lee Smith: Look, you're offering me the job. I'm going to take the job then let's figure out how to do it. 

Audrey Strong: Fake it till you make it. 

Michelle Ashby: That's right. The woman is more likely to go, "Wait a second, I don't have the other skills I need." And this is in her brain. She's like, "I'm not worthy. I don't have enough, blah, blah, blah." And she stops herself from raising the hand. So what I tell to do is kind of what you just said, is raise your hand and say, "Pick me. I can do it better than anybody else." And then you run back and figure out. So, what I say to them is, now you have a second voice on your shoulder and it's Michelle Ashby. And she's saying to you, raise your hand and then call me after you get done and we'll get it figured out. And it is a male characteristic. So I do say think like a man. If you were a man, what would you say to that? So, it's really helping to build their confidence, what I call executive level confidence, because I think there's different levels.

Audrey Strong: Let's say I'm interested in getting certified and enlisting your company, but I don't know if I want to be on a corporate board or a nonprofit board, on a fortune 500 or a startup. How do you help your folks sort out what to expect in any of those scenarios? 

Michelle Ashby: Perfect question, Audrey. I only train women for paid compensated board positions. So, you would be on the corporate side, which could be startup, private or public. Nonprofit, I do not train for. And so here, let's take a look at statistics—20% of women sit on what we know corporate paid boards, 80% men. Nonprofit world, probably it's about 80% women and 20% or maybe 10% men. We're doing all the work for free. So let's just switch it and let the guys do the nonprofit work and we'll take the paid jobs. What do you think?

Audrey Strong: I think that sounds perfectly good to me. Let's do it.

  1. Lee Smith: Whoever can do the job best, that's the one I'm going to pay for right there.

Michelle Ashby: I hear you. And women can do it just as well as men. We can match you. We can go toe-to-toe.

  1. Lee Smith: We've proven that in company. Yeah, I mean, most of our leadership is female in this company, so it's not unusual.

Audrey Strong: In terms of what to expect in the actual, the work itself, the 300-​page binder, am I more at risk? Is it more of a high wire act to be on a PepsiCo than a startup? Startups can be sticky wickets, too. I  guess I'm not quite sure what I would expect, but can you get into more trouble with a bigger company when things sideways and you're on the board? What to expect?

Michelle Ashby: I think that the basic rules as a director, so your duty of care, your duty of loyalty, those kinds of things are the same no matter what size, and we teach that. That comes under your board governance. And I mean, you need to be an integrity, and it's rare that you find people who are not, and of course then stuff happens. The risk sometimes in a big company is you're so far up you have no idea what's going on down below. You don't know what's happening within the company. And somebody could really be poisoning your product, and it will surface at some point but you can't know everything, you do the best you can. 

But let me back up about what it takes, because people ask me—how much work is this? Is it full-​time? Is it part-​time? So, the requirement for a public company is that you have to have a meeting every quarter for a year and one annual meeting. So five meetings a year, there's committee work and that type of thing. And I tell women, your first year, you're probably going to spend 20 hours a week getting yourself up to speed. If you are dedicated, you're the person who really wants to get in there. And that 20 hours goes back to building the relationships that we talked about. I encourage people to build relationships with the management team, with people in the company, go to the site visits. You've got to invest time, do one-​on-​one meetings with every director so that they know you and you get to know them, really ask your questions at the committee level. You could even do side meetings with the chair of the committees if you want to get more background. Because it's a river and it's running, and you're jumping into it. So you've got a lot to catch a up with that was up upstream. 

There can be a lot of work. But once you settle in, it really is a part-​time job. It's a paid job. My mentors, who are all men, I've been mentored by men my entire career in mining and finance for 30 years. I watched them come climb the corporate ladder, get on three or four boards, retire out, they're making six figures playing golf, and they've got stock options. They're set, their family is set. And that's been my path in my own career. In fact, I was looking for my board number three and four, when I decided to divert and create a program to train other women, because I realized we didn't have that. We didn't have the training and women didn't understand it. They didn't know what a board was or–

Audrey Strong:  How do I get there? Where do I even start?  Yeah. It's amazing. We got a few minutes left. It's acellc​.consulting. I know that your winter session are sold out. For people who are interested, when are you going to do your spring sessions?

Michelle Ashby: I'm launching that in probably 1st of February, and that'll start in late April. And I also have an online product that I'm running a special on for $59.50. They can register on my website, and that's anytime, anywhere. And I offer a free coaching call with that. So, that's a good way to start because it's a primer. You get some real basics and you can figure out pretty quickly, oh, this is for me or maybe this isn't for me. 

  1. Lee Smith: I wrote the book Sales Grid, which I have over my shoulder there, and it's all about sales credibility. One of the things I really believe is very helpful in establishing your credibility is to be a member of a board. I mean, because it shows that other companies trust you for your opinion and your acumen. But I also see that it also — having that on your profile, it makes people sit up and take notice now. It's like when you speak, more people are more apt to listen. How much of impact do you see that being a board member actually has on someone's credibility and their impact whenever they speak?

Michelle Ashby: Well, that's a good question. I would say that your credibility comes from your expertise, so there would be equal kind of level. But in the business world, it's quite good because obviously it's a stamp of approval. It's your kind of award. In academics, we get to go on stage and get all these honors. In business, this would be the equivalent of that is what I would say. So, it does build credibility and people do listen to you. And I think that's the other reason why older seasoned business people are so well-​suited because you're dealing with decision making. You have to have a lot of background and a lot of experiences in a lot of places. And I mean, I'm talking failures, a lot of failures and bringing yourself back up are some of the biggest benefits that you can have when you come to that table and you're trying to solve situations. And I depend on my other directors to bring that, because we all have different backgrounds.

  1. Lee Smith: And it's one of those things that feeds off itself. You need a very high degree of credibility to even get a board position. And then once you had the board position, now you have more credibility. And so it just continues to build and build and snowball.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, yeah, it does, actually. And there's no age limit it, by the way. So you will see like on the Berkshire Hathaway boards and some of those companies, those gentlemen are in their eighties, and I say gentlemen because they are all gentlemen at that age.

  1. Lee Smith: They're younger than Warren Buffet, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. I'm a Buffeter ed, so I track that.

Audrey Strong: Well, this is great. I can't thank you enough. And it's acellc​.consulting. I know that you said that there's like 400 women who signed up during the pandemic. So take advantage of the fact that you can focus if you're working from your home, might be a good time. 

Michelle Ashby: We need women. 

  1. Lee Smith: I want to go off on a tangent a little bit, in the little bit of time that we have left. We're normally a 20-​minute show, so now we get to be a 30 minute show, which is great. You have great experience in gold. And so I wanted to ask you a question about when's a good time to buy gold and not a good time to buy gold? And then my follow up question, that's going to be cryptocurrency, are we seeing more people buying cryptocurrency rather than gold or supplementing gold, or do the two not go together at all?

Michelle Ashby: Oh my gosh. You just like tapped into my–

Audrey Strong: Disclaimer, this is not financial advice she's giving, people. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Yeah. Okay, great. But the best time to buy gold was in 2000 when it was like $299 and now it's 1900-​something. But different ways to participate. I can tell you what my favorite way is to buy gold is to buy 24 karat gold jewelry.

Audrey Strong: Oh, jewelry.

Michelle Ashby: 24 karat gold jewelry. This is called mene, M‑E-​N‑E. And you can go online and buy this jewelry, and they will buy it back from you at spot less 10%. So, it's truly an investment in gold and you can wear it. It's amazing and it's beautifully designed. I was on their board for a year and a half, so I have to say a disclaimer, but love the deal. 

About cryptocurrency, it's a different thing, right? Cryptocurrency doesn't have the — this is a hard asset, solid thing you can carry it around, cryptocurrency is not, although with the blockchain, it is more secure. I can tell you, I have not dabbled in that. There are directors that I know who have just set aside a little bit of money to kind of play with it. And then there are people who are really adept at it. And I would say, the people who are kind of would by nature be in that category would be more of the risk-​taker, like gambling, make sure with any of that kind of stuff that it is disposable income and that stuff that you can live without if you lose all of it. I don't go there because to me it's too speculative. 

  1. Lee Smith: Yeah. You had mentioned earlier in the show about mentorship, and of course then Michelle asked me, would be great a as your mentor, but it's like, what other advice would you give to women, particularly younger women then, in finding a mentor then who can help them grow and develop and be groomed then for management positions, leadership positions, and eventually board positions?

Michelle Ashby: Right. Don't depend on a mentor to get you anywhere. You've got to show up yourself. So, I believe that my motivation and who I was, I showed up and I knew that I was competing based on my intellect and my experience. And so I know I was smart so I used that to get smart about whatever it was I was focusing on like when I was a stockbroker. And then my work ethic, like being there and being motivated, and I think I was identified — and I could have been a man or a woman, I would've been identified by mentors who showed up. All my mentors were gentlemen and wonderful people throughout my career. So, do your work first, make sure that you are working hard and making a difference yourself. And then, these are people who, what I say is they say good things to you about you like, "Great job, Audrey. You did awesome on that." And there're also people who will say great things about you in front of other people. So, they'll be like, "C. Lee, Audrey is amazing. She did da da, da, da, da." 

  1. Lee Smith: I hear it frequently. 

Michelle Ashby: Thirdly, they're the person who get in the room without you and put your name in the hat when somebody says, "Do you know somebody who could do this?" And I had that happen over and over in my career, but I worked really hard to get there and I stood up. I think what you do, C. Lee, is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I think that being good at sales, and I feel like I am because I'm a good storyteller and I love sales, so I applaud both of you for this because these are really incredible skills that I don't know, you would know better to say, can they be learned or do you just have them or is it a combination? 

  1. Lee Smith: It is a combination. Yeah. There definitely is. It's like the way your brain is wired then and your behavioral tendencies, motivational tendencies, and what you value, that determines your potential. But then it's like going from high potential to high performance, that requires a lot of work, a lot of skill, and a lot of everything. So, I definitely feel like it's both. 

Before we close out, there's one thing that I didn't get to ask you that I'm really curious about. You advise and mentor a lot of women on getting board positions, obviously, what about minority women? Is it harder for them?

Michelle Ashby: Not now. Actually, there has been a surgence of companies that are looking in particular for Black women since George Floyd. Almost every board request that I see will have that as an option if you have them on minority women. So, my group of graduates for my certification course, these are the women that I'm helping place on board. I have 81 graduates, about 10% of them are minorities, Black, Asian, South American, Latin American, et cetera. And actually, I have Eastern European. I have quite a diversity there. But as you said, we're looking for the best of the best, and they are out there, trust me. 

  1. Lee Smith: That's terrific news. I'm really happy to hear that. 

Audrey Strong: That's great news. Well, this has been great, Michelle. I want to start to cry because my 20 year old self is saying, "Why didn't I know you when I could have–" it was all about just trying to find your way and keep the wolves away from the door. There wasn't this long range thinking and plan that you're planting the seeds of with this show today, and I think it's fantastic. 

Michelle Ashby: Well, you know me now, Audrey. It's never too late. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. It's not too late.

Michelle Ashby: We need women in boardrooms. That's my thing. We need you. We need you. We need you.

  1. Lee Smith: She'd be a great one. 

Michelle Ashby: Good. Let's get her going.

  1. Lee Smith: On our leadership team, she's a very valued member of the team here. 

Audrey Strong: Thanks. We’ll talk off air later, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: There's your champion, right? 

  1. Lee Smith: Always. Yeah.

Audrey Strong: Thank you so much, Michelle. What a pleasure. Good luck with the program. And everybody, go to the website, sign up. And thanks again. This was great. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. I'm so appreciative to be your guest. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcast. You can also get more great information at SalesFuel.com.

This podcast on female leadership in the boardroom is a part of the C‑Suite Radio Network. For more top business podcasts, visit c‑suiteradio.com.

In this episode, Audrey, Lee and Michele discuss female leadership in the boardroom:

  • Why there aren’t more women on corporate boards
  • What training and certifications she recommends for leaders who want to qualify to be on a board and what boards are looking for
  • Her advice to female leaders on the environment in the board room
  • Her advice on bitcoin as she is an expert in mining and commodities

We need more women on boards! The opportunity has never been greater, as boards are seeking more diversity.”

Michele Ashby

Connect with Michele Ashby on female leadership in the boardroom:

Connect with the hosts of Manage Smarter:

Connect with SalesFuel:

Michele Ashby- Female Leadership in the Boardroom

00:32:34

This episode on female leadership in the boardroom of Manage Smarter is brought to you by SalesFuel Sales Manager Training. Based on the sales managers guide to greatness, it's a 36 lesson on-​demand program to upskill your sales manager so they can execute your vision and drive consistent revenue growth. Watch a free lesson and find out more at salesfuel​.com/​smt. 

Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast, with C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong. We're glad you're here for discussions on new ways to manage smarter, hire, develop, and retain talent, improve results, and propel team performance to new heights. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey Strong: Welcome to Manage Smarter, everyone. We are so glad that you're here today. I'm Audrey Strong, the vice president of communications here at SalesFuel.

  1. Lee Smith: And I'm C. Lee Smith, the president and CEO of SalesFuel. And here we are for year four of the Manage Smarter Show. And this year, we're on audio and video, that's exciting.

Audrey Strong: Very exciting. And hopefully I don't break the camera lens. Hopefully this doesn't crack into pieces. We're so glad that you're all here. 

  1. Lee Smith: Hopefully they're looking at you instead of looking at me. 

Audrey Strong: And welcome to our guest, Michelle Ashby. She's the CEO and founder of ACE LLC, Ashby Consulting Enterprises out of Denver, Colorado. Hi, Michelle. 

Michelle Ashby: Hi, Audrey. Thank you. And hi, C. Lee, how are you?

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be seen. I hope you’re well, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: I am. I like your background. That looks so great. I'm jealous. 

  1. Lee Smith: Audrey did that for me. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. One is coming for me, I just don't have it yet.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, it looks great.

  1. Lee Smith: Thanks.

Audrey Strong:  Well, thanks. So, we've got a great topic today with Michelle, women and boards. We have a lot of questions for you. I want to tell you a bit about Michelle, though, everybody. We're so glad that you're here. Focus is on educating, supporting, and teaching women how to attain corporate board positions through her ACE board certification program for women. Michelle has a diverse background, including 30 years as a gold specialist and analyst, financial expert, independent corporate director, and successful entrepreneur. You have got so many amazing things going on over the years, it's almost mind blowing. And you were recently awarded, Michelle, one of the top 25 most powerful women in business for Colorado for your work. You've trained more than 1,000 women to get on corporate board. So, congratulations to you on that. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Actually, my goal is to train a thousand women and I'm halfway there. This last year really catapulted this up to almost I'm really close to that 500 mark.

Audrey Strong: Well, we wanted to start kind of general. Lee wanted to start with his question. 

  1. Lee Smith: A lot of people, for the uninitiated, they only know about what boards do based on what they read in the business section of the newspaper, what they see on TV shows on TV. So, what exactly does a board member do and what does that look like?

Michelle Ashby: So speaking as a an experienced board member, I've been on six corporate boards. So about 20 years collectively in the boardroom, and we make the biggest decision. We have the power over the budgets. We have the power over the strategy. In a public company, really, our role is to represent, actually, it's about eight different parties. So, if we include all the stakeholders, right, it's our customers, it's our workforce, it's our management, executive, our shareholders, our investors, all of our stakeholders, the environment that we're doing our business in, et cetera, et cetera. So, it's a tough gig, because as you're sitting there considering another decision, you're representing all of those entities. And remember that it's a group decision. You may not agree with everyone, but in the end it's a group decision. It's not yours.

  1. Lee Smith: And we have a lot of sales managers watching on the Sales Experts Channel today. And I imagine then that if you can learn the skills that are required to be an excellent board member, that certainly makes you more promotable into company leadership, wouldn’t you think?

Michelle Ashby: Absolutely. And I look at it with a lens of leadership characteristics. So, when I'm looking for candidates for women that I'm going to train, I want women who have leadership skills. And to me, that's the courage to step into these leadership roles and make those tough decisions and be able to represent in those difficult situations. And so it is a different set of skills. And so it's one of those that, as a sales manager, you're going to want to be mentored in moving up into those other leadership roles. And then what's your passion? That's the other thing. Because I have passion that backs up the reason why I do things, and I believe that's why I have been successful throughout my career.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. You said that what, only 20% of US boards are women. Do you mean 20% only contain a woman or are all women?

Michelle Ashby: All women. So, there are still a lot of boards out there that have no women on them. And that statistic is, yeah, it's like the general for all public companies. For private corporations, we don't have those statistics, just by the way.

  1. Lee Smith: Why do you think that is? 

Michelle Ashby: Well, because they don't have to report. Their financials are not public and they don't have to tell us.

  1. Lee Smith: Well, going back, why only 20% of women on board?

Michelle Ashby: Well, to be honest with you, we just started this process recently in the last — there's a photograph that I show to all my groups, which is from 1975, that shows Catherine Graham as the only female, first female on the board of the Associated Press. And so, you know, it's only in the last few decades that women have started to be invited and appointed to the boardroom. So, it's a process, right. 

Audrey Strong: So, talk about the certification program. I mean, you said there's four different programs and pieces to this. Can you talk a little bit about what a woman who aspires to this might be setting themselves up for?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. So, there's what I call board governance, you have to learn that. Financial acumen, and a lot of women go, oh, I don't have finance so don't pick me. But only 25% of board appointments are people who are financial experts. So that means 75% of them are not, but regardless, it's really good for you to understand financial statements and know what people are talking about. We cover financial acumen. The other one is risks and responsibilities. In a public company, of course you know there's the opportunity where you could be breaking regulations or out of compliance. You have to be aware of that. And then the other piece is, for women in particular, how to get on a board. So it's really putting together your own playbook as to what these you're targeting, and then how are you going to go about trying to get on that board.

  1. Lee Smith: As a sales manager, it actually gives you a bit of a leg up, because you're used to having to make numbers every month, every quarter, and you have to have a certain amount of business acumen then to be able to solve problems for people through the sales process. So actually, if you're a sales manager, embrace that, that actually gives you a leg up because you actually understand and you're comfortable talking about money.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. And I think you're hitting on some really good points that are the other characteristics like sales, as you are so well-​versed, not everyone is a good salesperson, a good salesperson is also excellent at communication and getting those ideas across. They have to do their homework in order to be able to sell the product that they're going to be selling. They do have to understand the finances because that's going to be the question that people ask them, and they have to have that pencil sharp and then understand what those nuances are. And so those are all super strong characteristics that will serve a person well who has those skills. 

  1. Lee Smith: It's not just communicating then with clients or something like that. Once you get into management, being able to communicate internally becomes super important, and even more so when you're a board member, I would assume.

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. And then being able to communicate. What I say is it's a peer-​to-​peer and it's an executive level, and there's a different language. I call it the executive vernacular, so it's important. That's why mentorship from other leaders is so important because those are the people who can help you, teach you, and get you into that executive role, with the correct and acceptable, you know what I'm saying, kinds of things. Because it's a team, and there's specific rules right there, but there's not a lot of books written around what those are. 

  1. Lee Smith: And then there's unwritten rules, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, exactly.

Audrey Strong: We were talking last night on the phone about our interview with you today. And one of the things that we talked about was the misconceptions by the wider public, and maybe even business people and our peers, about boards and that it's a patronage appointment, and it's my second cousin or the CEO's, whatever, twice removed, who has no skillset related at all to the company. And then also the idea of boards being just a rubber stamp for golden parachutes and other things. Can you talk a little bit about how you help your certification candidates separate those type of scenarios going for an organization, where it's really set up not in that way?

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. Yeah. So what you're talking about is the whole collegiality of it, right? And there's actually a reason that that happens. If I'm starting a new company and I am excited about it and I want to go in a certain direction, I'm going to pick the people I know, and people who know me, and people who support me. So, it usually almost always starts out that way, and then evolves into, okay, now we've grown and we need this other thing. When you go public, you have regulations and you're scrutinized dramatically. You are being watched and it is a lot of work. I can tell you that before I go to a board meeting, my board book is typically 185 to 300 pages that I need to read before I can get into that. And then we do committee meetings before the board meetings. So, a lot of the work is done before you ever get in the boardroom. It might be site visits. My background's in mining, so we go to the mine sites and spend a couple days with everybody. And then we do committee meetings, and then we do other meetings. And then by the time we get to that agenda at the boardroom, it might be pretty short and sweet, but there's a lot behind it. So many hours that have gone into it before we ever get there. Does that answer the question? 

Audrey Strong: Yes. That makes sense. Lee, we had to his point yesterday said, yeah, but what do you do if you finally get — I've taken your certification, you've helped me network, I get on a board, and it's a hostile board. The CEP doesn’t like me.

  1. Lee Smith: You got one shareholder or whatever that just is raising hell and doesn't like the CEO, whatever, it's the TV drama stuff, right. I mean, how often does that actually happen?

Michelle Ashby: Well, of all the boards I've been on and all the years I've been in, I've never had that happen in real life. I think it's rare. I know it does happen but it's very rare. And typically, you're not going to see just one rogue person, you'll probably see potentially two or three. So, if we have a disgruntled shareholder, they're going to try and replace two or three seats on the board because they know they're are not going to make an effect with just one person. They need to have some bench strength there. 

  1. Lee Smith: Well, that goes to the importance of alliance building, which is like, once you're a sales manager, you realize then the importance of building alliance then with other departments and with key management and everything like that. So, how do you advise people on how to be better skilled at building alliances? What kind of tips could you offer somebody on that?

Michelle Ashby: That's a really good question, because I recognize just this morning that there was a question that came up. I had a board meeting yesterday, and we had a new person on the board meeting who was making a presentation. I realized he probably knew a colleague of mine, actually, one of the women who went through my certification. I said, "How do you know her?" And he said, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what I realize is this is the executive vernacular question. When you overhear someone saying something that you know someone or something about, that's the kind of the key question is, oh, how do you know her? I knew her from blah, blah, blah. And that's kind of a subtle key of forming that alliance, because once we see that recognition in each other of that similarity, that checks a trust box. So what you're talking about is the very basic thing of having to have the trust box checked.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. That makes sense. I think we lost Lee, but he'll come back. That's okay.

Michelle Ashby: I wanted him to hear that answer because–

Audrey Strong: He'll hear it. We'll keep going. He'll come back into the room. You say that the gender diversity on boards improves outcomes. What specific outcomes are those and how does that work?

Michelle Ashby: So, the research has shown, over the years, and we're going to continue to see this because it is such a new factor, it's kind of like when we're dealing with a new virus, we're collecting data as we go along and we get to unlearn more as we go along. Return on investment, there have been studies that have — if you have three women on your board, that your return on investor is actually the highest. And the last number I saw was between 17 and 27% better than if you have no women on your board. So, that was a Stanford study that was done a while ago. 

Audrey Strong: That's amazing. 

Michelle Ashby: And the other parts that are a little bit harder to measure is retention, it's HR issues, what's the culture like? So, culturally within the company, that can be a benefit . We're trying to measure those things. This is what I believe, I believe that the outcomes are better for all the stakeholders. So, your executive team, your management team, your employees, your shareholders, all the way, clients, jurisdictions that you're doing business in, I believe that they have better interaction with the company when there are women on the board in helping to make those decisions at the very top.

Audrey Strong: That makes sense. Welcome back, Lee.

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be back. That was very weird. We had a little bit of a power outage here.

Michelle Ashby: Oh, you did?

Audrey Strong: Wow. Okay. Glad you're back.

  1. Lee Smith: But we're back. When you're coaching women to become board members, are you advising them then to be like the men and get in there and mix it up with the men and play the same game by the same rules, or are you advising them to do it differently because they’re women?

Michelle Ashby: Let's neutralize that a little bit, because we all function in a patriarchal model, and that's just the reality. And whether they know that or not, I do point that out. And so we know what that pyramid looks like, right, CEO, and then the C level underneath, and the VPs, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that can be male or female regardless. What I do say is think like a man. And that's more in regards to their confidence, C. Lee. Because here's the research we know, when a man and a woman who are equally skilled and experienced are offered a promotion, the man is much more likely to raise his hand and say, "Pick me, I'll give it a go," when he has 60% of what he needs to do that job. The woman–

  1. Lee Smith: Or less.

Michelle Ashby: Or less. So what is the real statistic? 

Lee Smith: Maybe 20%. 

Michelle Ashby: Wow, okay. See, that's really good to know.

  1. Lee Smith: Look, you're offering me the job. I'm going to take the job then let's figure out how to do it. 

Audrey Strong: Fake it till you make it. 

Michelle Ashby: That's right. The woman is more likely to go, "Wait a second, I don't have the other skills I need." And this is in her brain. She's like, "I'm not worthy. I don't have enough, blah, blah, blah." And she stops herself from raising the hand. So what I tell to do is kind of what you just said, is raise your hand and say, "Pick me. I can do it better than anybody else." And then you run back and figure out. So, what I say to them is, now you have a second voice on your shoulder and it's Michelle Ashby. And she's saying to you, raise your hand and then call me after you get done and we'll get it figured out. And it is a male characteristic. So I do say think like a man. If you were a man, what would you say to that? So, it's really helping to build their confidence, what I call executive level confidence, because I think there's different levels.

Audrey Strong: Let's say I'm interested in getting certified and enlisting your company, but I don't know if I want to be on a corporate board or a nonprofit board, on a fortune 500 or a startup. How do you help your folks sort out what to expect in any of those scenarios? 

Michelle Ashby: Perfect question, Audrey. I only train women for paid compensated board positions. So, you would be on the corporate side, which could be startup, private or public. Nonprofit, I do not train for. And so here, let's take a look at statistics—20% of women sit on what we know corporate paid boards, 80% men. Nonprofit world, probably it's about 80% women and 20% or maybe 10% men. We're doing all the work for free. So let's just switch it and let the guys do the nonprofit work and we'll take the paid jobs. What do you think?

Audrey Strong: I think that sounds perfectly good to me. Let's do it.

  1. Lee Smith: Whoever can do the job best, that's the one I'm going to pay for right there.

Michelle Ashby: I hear you. And women can do it just as well as men. We can match you. We can go toe-to-toe.

  1. Lee Smith: We've proven that in company. Yeah, I mean, most of our leadership is female in this company, so it's not unusual.

Audrey Strong: In terms of what to expect in the actual, the work itself, the 300-​page binder, am I more at risk? Is it more of a high wire act to be on a PepsiCo than a startup? Startups can be sticky wickets, too. I  guess I'm not quite sure what I would expect, but can you get into more trouble with a bigger company when things sideways and you're on the board? What to expect?

Michelle Ashby: I think that the basic rules as a director, so your duty of care, your duty of loyalty, those kinds of things are the same no matter what size, and we teach that. That comes under your board governance. And I mean, you need to be an integrity, and it's rare that you find people who are not, and of course then stuff happens. The risk sometimes in a big company is you're so far up you have no idea what's going on down below. You don't know what's happening within the company. And somebody could really be poisoning your product, and it will surface at some point but you can't know everything, you do the best you can. 

But let me back up about what it takes, because people ask me—how much work is this? Is it full-​time? Is it part-​time? So, the requirement for a public company is that you have to have a meeting every quarter for a year and one annual meeting. So five meetings a year, there's committee work and that type of thing. And I tell women, your first year, you're probably going to spend 20 hours a week getting yourself up to speed. If you are dedicated, you're the person who really wants to get in there. And that 20 hours goes back to building the relationships that we talked about. I encourage people to build relationships with the management team, with people in the company, go to the site visits. You've got to invest time, do one-​on-​one meetings with every director so that they know you and you get to know them, really ask your questions at the committee level. You could even do side meetings with the chair of the committees if you want to get more background. Because it's a river and it's running, and you're jumping into it. So you've got a lot to catch a up with that was up upstream. 

There can be a lot of work. But once you settle in, it really is a part-​time job. It's a paid job. My mentors, who are all men, I've been mentored by men my entire career in mining and finance for 30 years. I watched them come climb the corporate ladder, get on three or four boards, retire out, they're making six figures playing golf, and they've got stock options. They're set, their family is set. And that's been my path in my own career. In fact, I was looking for my board number three and four, when I decided to divert and create a program to train other women, because I realized we didn't have that. We didn't have the training and women didn't understand it. They didn't know what a board was or–

Audrey Strong:  How do I get there? Where do I even start?  Yeah. It's amazing. We got a few minutes left. It's acellc​.consulting. I know that your winter session are sold out. For people who are interested, when are you going to do your spring sessions?

Michelle Ashby: I'm launching that in probably 1st of February, and that'll start in late April. And I also have an online product that I'm running a special on for $59.50. They can register on my website, and that's anytime, anywhere. And I offer a free coaching call with that. So, that's a good way to start because it's a primer. You get some real basics and you can figure out pretty quickly, oh, this is for me or maybe this isn't for me. 

  1. Lee Smith: I wrote the book Sales Grid, which I have over my shoulder there, and it's all about sales credibility. One of the things I really believe is very helpful in establishing your credibility is to be a member of a board. I mean, because it shows that other companies trust you for your opinion and your acumen. But I also see that it also — having that on your profile, it makes people sit up and take notice now. It's like when you speak, more people are more apt to listen. How much of impact do you see that being a board member actually has on someone's credibility and their impact whenever they speak?

Michelle Ashby: Well, that's a good question. I would say that your credibility comes from your expertise, so there would be equal kind of level. But in the business world, it's quite good because obviously it's a stamp of approval. It's your kind of award. In academics, we get to go on stage and get all these honors. In business, this would be the equivalent of that is what I would say. So, it does build credibility and people do listen to you. And I think that's the other reason why older seasoned business people are so well-​suited because you're dealing with decision making. You have to have a lot of background and a lot of experiences in a lot of places. And I mean, I'm talking failures, a lot of failures and bringing yourself back up are some of the biggest benefits that you can have when you come to that table and you're trying to solve situations. And I depend on my other directors to bring that, because we all have different backgrounds.

  1. Lee Smith: And it's one of those things that feeds off itself. You need a very high degree of credibility to even get a board position. And then once you had the board position, now you have more credibility. And so it just continues to build and build and snowball.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, yeah, it does, actually. And there's no age limit it, by the way. So you will see like on the Berkshire Hathaway boards and some of those companies, those gentlemen are in their eighties, and I say gentlemen because they are all gentlemen at that age.

  1. Lee Smith: They're younger than Warren Buffet, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. I'm a Buffeter ed, so I track that.

Audrey Strong: Well, this is great. I can't thank you enough. And it's acellc​.consulting. I know that you said that there's like 400 women who signed up during the pandemic. So take advantage of the fact that you can focus if you're working from your home, might be a good time. 

Michelle Ashby: We need women. 

  1. Lee Smith: I want to go off on a tangent a little bit, in the little bit of time that we have left. We're normally a 20-​minute show, so now we get to be a 30 minute show, which is great. You have great experience in gold. And so I wanted to ask you a question about when's a good time to buy gold and not a good time to buy gold? And then my follow up question, that's going to be cryptocurrency, are we seeing more people buying cryptocurrency rather than gold or supplementing gold, or do the two not go together at all?

Michelle Ashby: Oh my gosh. You just like tapped into my–

Audrey Strong: Disclaimer, this is not financial advice she's giving, people. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Yeah. Okay, great. But the best time to buy gold was in 2000 when it was like $299 and now it's 1900-​something. But different ways to participate. I can tell you what my favorite way is to buy gold is to buy 24 karat gold jewelry.

Audrey Strong: Oh, jewelry.

Michelle Ashby: 24 karat gold jewelry. This is called mene, M‑E-​N‑E. And you can go online and buy this jewelry, and they will buy it back from you at spot less 10%. So, it's truly an investment in gold and you can wear it. It's amazing and it's beautifully designed. I was on their board for a year and a half, so I have to say a disclaimer, but love the deal. 

About cryptocurrency, it's a different thing, right? Cryptocurrency doesn't have the — this is a hard asset, solid thing you can carry it around, cryptocurrency is not, although with the blockchain, it is more secure. I can tell you, I have not dabbled in that. There are directors that I know who have just set aside a little bit of money to kind of play with it. And then there are people who are really adept at it. And I would say, the people who are kind of would by nature be in that category would be more of the risk-​taker, like gambling, make sure with any of that kind of stuff that it is disposable income and that stuff that you can live without if you lose all of it. I don't go there because to me it's too speculative. 

  1. Lee Smith: Yeah. You had mentioned earlier in the show about mentorship, and of course then Michelle asked me, would be great a as your mentor, but it's like, what other advice would you give to women, particularly younger women then, in finding a mentor then who can help them grow and develop and be groomed then for management positions, leadership positions, and eventually board positions?

Michelle Ashby: Right. Don't depend on a mentor to get you anywhere. You've got to show up yourself. So, I believe that my motivation and who I was, I showed up and I knew that I was competing based on my intellect and my experience. And so I know I was smart so I used that to get smart about whatever it was I was focusing on like when I was a stockbroker. And then my work ethic, like being there and being motivated, and I think I was identified — and I could have been a man or a woman, I would've been identified by mentors who showed up. All my mentors were gentlemen and wonderful people throughout my career. So, do your work first, make sure that you are working hard and making a difference yourself. And then, these are people who, what I say is they say good things to you about you like, "Great job, Audrey. You did awesome on that." And there're also people who will say great things about you in front of other people. So, they'll be like, "C. Lee, Audrey is amazing. She did da da, da, da, da." 

  1. Lee Smith: I hear it frequently. 

Michelle Ashby: Thirdly, they're the person who get in the room without you and put your name in the hat when somebody says, "Do you know somebody who could do this?" And I had that happen over and over in my career, but I worked really hard to get there and I stood up. I think what you do, C. Lee, is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I think that being good at sales, and I feel like I am because I'm a good storyteller and I love sales, so I applaud both of you for this because these are really incredible skills that I don't know, you would know better to say, can they be learned or do you just have them or is it a combination? 

  1. Lee Smith: It is a combination. Yeah. There definitely is. It's like the way your brain is wired then and your behavioral tendencies, motivational tendencies, and what you value, that determines your potential. But then it's like going from high potential to high performance, that requires a lot of work, a lot of skill, and a lot of everything. So, I definitely feel like it's both. 

Before we close out, there's one thing that I didn't get to ask you that I'm really curious about. You advise and mentor a lot of women on getting board positions, obviously, what about minority women? Is it harder for them?

Michelle Ashby: Not now. Actually, there has been a surgence of companies that are looking in particular for Black women since George Floyd. Almost every board request that I see will have that as an option if you have them on minority women. So, my group of graduates for my certification course, these are the women that I'm helping place on board. I have 81 graduates, about 10% of them are minorities, Black, Asian, South American, Latin American, et cetera. And actually, I have Eastern European. I have quite a diversity there. But as you said, we're looking for the best of the best, and they are out there, trust me. 

  1. Lee Smith: That's terrific news. I'm really happy to hear that. 

Audrey Strong: That's great news. Well, this has been great, Michelle. I want to start to cry because my 20 year old self is saying, "Why didn't I know you when I could have–" it was all about just trying to find your way and keep the wolves away from the door. There wasn't this long range thinking and plan that you're planting the seeds of with this show today, and I think it's fantastic. 

Michelle Ashby: Well, you know me now, Audrey. It's never too late. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. It's not too late.

Michelle Ashby: We need women in boardrooms. That's my thing. We need you. We need you. We need you.

  1. Lee Smith: She'd be a great one. 

Michelle Ashby: Good. Let's get her going.

  1. Lee Smith: On our leadership team, she's a very valued member of the team here. 

Audrey Strong: Thanks. We’ll talk off air later, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: There's your champion, right? 

  1. Lee Smith: Always. Yeah.

Audrey Strong: Thank you so much, Michelle. What a pleasure. Good luck with the program. And everybody, go to the website, sign up. And thanks again. This was great. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. I'm so appreciative to be your guest. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcast. You can also get more great information at SalesFuel.com.

This podcast on female leadership in the boardroom is a part of the C‑Suite Radio Network. For more top business podcasts, visit c‑suiteradio.com.

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Michele Ashby is CEO & Founder of ACE LLC, Ashby Consulting Enterprises LLC. Her focus is on educating, supporting and teaching women how to attain corporate board positions through the ACE Board Certification Programs for Women. 

Ms. Ashby has a diverse background which includes 30 years as a gold specialist/​analyst, financial expert, independent corporate director and successful entrepreneur. She was recently awarded, one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business in Colorado, for her work in training 1,000 women to get on corporate boards. She is a subject matter expert on Board Governance, Finance, and Strategy.

In this episode, Audrey, Lee and Michele discuss female leadership in the boardroom:

  • Why there aren’t more women on corporate boards
  • What training and certifications she recommends for leaders who want to qualify to be on a board and what boards are looking for
  • Her advice to female leaders on the environment in the board room
  • Her advice on bitcoin as she is an expert in mining and commodities

We need more women on boards! The opportunity has never been greater, as boards are seeking more diversity.”

Michele Ashby

Connect with Michele Ashby on female leadership in the boardroom:

Connect with the hosts of Manage Smarter:

Connect with SalesFuel:

Michele Ashby- Female Leadership in the Boardroom

00:32:34

This episode on female leadership in the boardroom of Manage Smarter is brought to you by SalesFuel Sales Manager Training. Based on the sales managers guide to greatness, it's a 36 lesson on-​demand program to upskill your sales manager so they can execute your vision and drive consistent revenue growth. Watch a free lesson and find out more at salesfuel​.com/​smt. 

Welcome to the Manage Smarter Podcast, with C. Lee Smith and Audrey Strong. We're glad you're here for discussions on new ways to manage smarter, hire, develop, and retain talent, improve results, and propel team performance to new heights. This is the Manage Smarter Podcast.

Audrey Strong: Welcome to Manage Smarter, everyone. We are so glad that you're here today. I'm Audrey Strong, the vice president of communications here at SalesFuel.

  1. Lee Smith: And I'm C. Lee Smith, the president and CEO of SalesFuel. And here we are for year four of the Manage Smarter Show. And this year, we're on audio and video, that's exciting.

Audrey Strong: Very exciting. And hopefully I don't break the camera lens. Hopefully this doesn't crack into pieces. We're so glad that you're all here. 

  1. Lee Smith: Hopefully they're looking at you instead of looking at me. 

Audrey Strong: And welcome to our guest, Michelle Ashby. She's the CEO and founder of ACE LLC, Ashby Consulting Enterprises out of Denver, Colorado. Hi, Michelle. 

Michelle Ashby: Hi, Audrey. Thank you. And hi, C. Lee, how are you?

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be seen. I hope you’re well, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: I am. I like your background. That looks so great. I'm jealous. 

  1. Lee Smith: Audrey did that for me. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. One is coming for me, I just don't have it yet.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, it looks great.

  1. Lee Smith: Thanks.

Audrey Strong:  Well, thanks. So, we've got a great topic today with Michelle, women and boards. We have a lot of questions for you. I want to tell you a bit about Michelle, though, everybody. We're so glad that you're here. Focus is on educating, supporting, and teaching women how to attain corporate board positions through her ACE board certification program for women. Michelle has a diverse background, including 30 years as a gold specialist and analyst, financial expert, independent corporate director, and successful entrepreneur. You have got so many amazing things going on over the years, it's almost mind blowing. And you were recently awarded, Michelle, one of the top 25 most powerful women in business for Colorado for your work. You've trained more than 1,000 women to get on corporate board. So, congratulations to you on that. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Actually, my goal is to train a thousand women and I'm halfway there. This last year really catapulted this up to almost I'm really close to that 500 mark.

Audrey Strong: Well, we wanted to start kind of general. Lee wanted to start with his question. 

  1. Lee Smith: A lot of people, for the uninitiated, they only know about what boards do based on what they read in the business section of the newspaper, what they see on TV shows on TV. So, what exactly does a board member do and what does that look like?

Michelle Ashby: So speaking as a an experienced board member, I've been on six corporate boards. So about 20 years collectively in the boardroom, and we make the biggest decision. We have the power over the budgets. We have the power over the strategy. In a public company, really, our role is to represent, actually, it's about eight different parties. So, if we include all the stakeholders, right, it's our customers, it's our workforce, it's our management, executive, our shareholders, our investors, all of our stakeholders, the environment that we're doing our business in, et cetera, et cetera. So, it's a tough gig, because as you're sitting there considering another decision, you're representing all of those entities. And remember that it's a group decision. You may not agree with everyone, but in the end it's a group decision. It's not yours.

  1. Lee Smith: And we have a lot of sales managers watching on the Sales Experts Channel today. And I imagine then that if you can learn the skills that are required to be an excellent board member, that certainly makes you more promotable into company leadership, wouldn’t you think?

Michelle Ashby: Absolutely. And I look at it with a lens of leadership characteristics. So, when I'm looking for candidates for women that I'm going to train, I want women who have leadership skills. And to me, that's the courage to step into these leadership roles and make those tough decisions and be able to represent in those difficult situations. And so it is a different set of skills. And so it's one of those that, as a sales manager, you're going to want to be mentored in moving up into those other leadership roles. And then what's your passion? That's the other thing. Because I have passion that backs up the reason why I do things, and I believe that's why I have been successful throughout my career.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. You said that what, only 20% of US boards are women. Do you mean 20% only contain a woman or are all women?

Michelle Ashby: All women. So, there are still a lot of boards out there that have no women on them. And that statistic is, yeah, it's like the general for all public companies. For private corporations, we don't have those statistics, just by the way.

  1. Lee Smith: Why do you think that is? 

Michelle Ashby: Well, because they don't have to report. Their financials are not public and they don't have to tell us.

  1. Lee Smith: Well, going back, why only 20% of women on board?

Michelle Ashby: Well, to be honest with you, we just started this process recently in the last — there's a photograph that I show to all my groups, which is from 1975, that shows Catherine Graham as the only female, first female on the board of the Associated Press. And so, you know, it's only in the last few decades that women have started to be invited and appointed to the boardroom. So, it's a process, right. 

Audrey Strong: So, talk about the certification program. I mean, you said there's four different programs and pieces to this. Can you talk a little bit about what a woman who aspires to this might be setting themselves up for?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. So, there's what I call board governance, you have to learn that. Financial acumen, and a lot of women go, oh, I don't have finance so don't pick me. But only 25% of board appointments are people who are financial experts. So that means 75% of them are not, but regardless, it's really good for you to understand financial statements and know what people are talking about. We cover financial acumen. The other one is risks and responsibilities. In a public company, of course you know there's the opportunity where you could be breaking regulations or out of compliance. You have to be aware of that. And then the other piece is, for women in particular, how to get on a board. So it's really putting together your own playbook as to what these you're targeting, and then how are you going to go about trying to get on that board.

  1. Lee Smith: As a sales manager, it actually gives you a bit of a leg up, because you're used to having to make numbers every month, every quarter, and you have to have a certain amount of business acumen then to be able to solve problems for people through the sales process. So actually, if you're a sales manager, embrace that, that actually gives you a leg up because you actually understand and you're comfortable talking about money.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. And I think you're hitting on some really good points that are the other characteristics like sales, as you are so well-​versed, not everyone is a good salesperson, a good salesperson is also excellent at communication and getting those ideas across. They have to do their homework in order to be able to sell the product that they're going to be selling. They do have to understand the finances because that's going to be the question that people ask them, and they have to have that pencil sharp and then understand what those nuances are. And so those are all super strong characteristics that will serve a person well who has those skills. 

  1. Lee Smith: It's not just communicating then with clients or something like that. Once you get into management, being able to communicate internally becomes super important, and even more so when you're a board member, I would assume.

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. And then being able to communicate. What I say is it's a peer-​to-​peer and it's an executive level, and there's a different language. I call it the executive vernacular, so it's important. That's why mentorship from other leaders is so important because those are the people who can help you, teach you, and get you into that executive role, with the correct and acceptable, you know what I'm saying, kinds of things. Because it's a team, and there's specific rules right there, but there's not a lot of books written around what those are. 

  1. Lee Smith: And then there's unwritten rules, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, exactly.

Audrey Strong: We were talking last night on the phone about our interview with you today. And one of the things that we talked about was the misconceptions by the wider public, and maybe even business people and our peers, about boards and that it's a patronage appointment, and it's my second cousin or the CEO's, whatever, twice removed, who has no skillset related at all to the company. And then also the idea of boards being just a rubber stamp for golden parachutes and other things. Can you talk a little bit about how you help your certification candidates separate those type of scenarios going for an organization, where it's really set up not in that way?

Michelle Ashby: Exactly. Yeah. So what you're talking about is the whole collegiality of it, right? And there's actually a reason that that happens. If I'm starting a new company and I am excited about it and I want to go in a certain direction, I'm going to pick the people I know, and people who know me, and people who support me. So, it usually almost always starts out that way, and then evolves into, okay, now we've grown and we need this other thing. When you go public, you have regulations and you're scrutinized dramatically. You are being watched and it is a lot of work. I can tell you that before I go to a board meeting, my board book is typically 185 to 300 pages that I need to read before I can get into that. And then we do committee meetings before the board meetings. So, a lot of the work is done before you ever get in the boardroom. It might be site visits. My background's in mining, so we go to the mine sites and spend a couple days with everybody. And then we do committee meetings, and then we do other meetings. And then by the time we get to that agenda at the boardroom, it might be pretty short and sweet, but there's a lot behind it. So many hours that have gone into it before we ever get there. Does that answer the question? 

Audrey Strong: Yes. That makes sense. Lee, we had to his point yesterday said, yeah, but what do you do if you finally get — I've taken your certification, you've helped me network, I get on a board, and it's a hostile board. The CEP doesn’t like me.

  1. Lee Smith: You got one shareholder or whatever that just is raising hell and doesn't like the CEO, whatever, it's the TV drama stuff, right. I mean, how often does that actually happen?

Michelle Ashby: Well, of all the boards I've been on and all the years I've been in, I've never had that happen in real life. I think it's rare. I know it does happen but it's very rare. And typically, you're not going to see just one rogue person, you'll probably see potentially two or three. So, if we have a disgruntled shareholder, they're going to try and replace two or three seats on the board because they know they're are not going to make an effect with just one person. They need to have some bench strength there. 

  1. Lee Smith: Well, that goes to the importance of alliance building, which is like, once you're a sales manager, you realize then the importance of building alliance then with other departments and with key management and everything like that. So, how do you advise people on how to be better skilled at building alliances? What kind of tips could you offer somebody on that?

Michelle Ashby: That's a really good question, because I recognize just this morning that there was a question that came up. I had a board meeting yesterday, and we had a new person on the board meeting who was making a presentation. I realized he probably knew a colleague of mine, actually, one of the women who went through my certification. I said, "How do you know her?" And he said, oh, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what I realize is this is the executive vernacular question. When you overhear someone saying something that you know someone or something about, that's the kind of the key question is, oh, how do you know her? I knew her from blah, blah, blah. And that's kind of a subtle key of forming that alliance, because once we see that recognition in each other of that similarity, that checks a trust box. So what you're talking about is the very basic thing of having to have the trust box checked.

Audrey Strong: Yeah. That makes sense. I think we lost Lee, but he'll come back. That's okay.

Michelle Ashby: I wanted him to hear that answer because–

Audrey Strong: He'll hear it. We'll keep going. He'll come back into the room. You say that the gender diversity on boards improves outcomes. What specific outcomes are those and how does that work?

Michelle Ashby: So, the research has shown, over the years, and we're going to continue to see this because it is such a new factor, it's kind of like when we're dealing with a new virus, we're collecting data as we go along and we get to unlearn more as we go along. Return on investment, there have been studies that have — if you have three women on your board, that your return on investor is actually the highest. And the last number I saw was between 17 and 27% better than if you have no women on your board. So, that was a Stanford study that was done a while ago. 

Audrey Strong: That's amazing. 

Michelle Ashby: And the other parts that are a little bit harder to measure is retention, it's HR issues, what's the culture like? So, culturally within the company, that can be a benefit . We're trying to measure those things. This is what I believe, I believe that the outcomes are better for all the stakeholders. So, your executive team, your management team, your employees, your shareholders, all the way, clients, jurisdictions that you're doing business in, I believe that they have better interaction with the company when there are women on the board in helping to make those decisions at the very top.

Audrey Strong: That makes sense. Welcome back, Lee.

  1. Lee Smith: It's good to be back. That was very weird. We had a little bit of a power outage here.

Michelle Ashby: Oh, you did?

Audrey Strong: Wow. Okay. Glad you're back.

  1. Lee Smith: But we're back. When you're coaching women to become board members, are you advising them then to be like the men and get in there and mix it up with the men and play the same game by the same rules, or are you advising them to do it differently because they’re women?

Michelle Ashby: Let's neutralize that a little bit, because we all function in a patriarchal model, and that's just the reality. And whether they know that or not, I do point that out. And so we know what that pyramid looks like, right, CEO, and then the C level underneath, and the VPs, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And that can be male or female regardless. What I do say is think like a man. And that's more in regards to their confidence, C. Lee. Because here's the research we know, when a man and a woman who are equally skilled and experienced are offered a promotion, the man is much more likely to raise his hand and say, "Pick me, I'll give it a go," when he has 60% of what he needs to do that job. The woman–

  1. Lee Smith: Or less.

Michelle Ashby: Or less. So what is the real statistic? 

Lee Smith: Maybe 20%. 

Michelle Ashby: Wow, okay. See, that's really good to know.

  1. Lee Smith: Look, you're offering me the job. I'm going to take the job then let's figure out how to do it. 

Audrey Strong: Fake it till you make it. 

Michelle Ashby: That's right. The woman is more likely to go, "Wait a second, I don't have the other skills I need." And this is in her brain. She's like, "I'm not worthy. I don't have enough, blah, blah, blah." And she stops herself from raising the hand. So what I tell to do is kind of what you just said, is raise your hand and say, "Pick me. I can do it better than anybody else." And then you run back and figure out. So, what I say to them is, now you have a second voice on your shoulder and it's Michelle Ashby. And she's saying to you, raise your hand and then call me after you get done and we'll get it figured out. And it is a male characteristic. So I do say think like a man. If you were a man, what would you say to that? So, it's really helping to build their confidence, what I call executive level confidence, because I think there's different levels.

Audrey Strong: Let's say I'm interested in getting certified and enlisting your company, but I don't know if I want to be on a corporate board or a nonprofit board, on a fortune 500 or a startup. How do you help your folks sort out what to expect in any of those scenarios? 

Michelle Ashby: Perfect question, Audrey. I only train women for paid compensated board positions. So, you would be on the corporate side, which could be startup, private or public. Nonprofit, I do not train for. And so here, let's take a look at statistics—20% of women sit on what we know corporate paid boards, 80% men. Nonprofit world, probably it's about 80% women and 20% or maybe 10% men. We're doing all the work for free. So let's just switch it and let the guys do the nonprofit work and we'll take the paid jobs. What do you think?

Audrey Strong: I think that sounds perfectly good to me. Let's do it.

  1. Lee Smith: Whoever can do the job best, that's the one I'm going to pay for right there.

Michelle Ashby: I hear you. And women can do it just as well as men. We can match you. We can go toe-to-toe.

  1. Lee Smith: We've proven that in company. Yeah, I mean, most of our leadership is female in this company, so it's not unusual.

Audrey Strong: In terms of what to expect in the actual, the work itself, the 300-​page binder, am I more at risk? Is it more of a high wire act to be on a PepsiCo than a startup? Startups can be sticky wickets, too. I  guess I'm not quite sure what I would expect, but can you get into more trouble with a bigger company when things sideways and you're on the board? What to expect?

Michelle Ashby: I think that the basic rules as a director, so your duty of care, your duty of loyalty, those kinds of things are the same no matter what size, and we teach that. That comes under your board governance. And I mean, you need to be an integrity, and it's rare that you find people who are not, and of course then stuff happens. The risk sometimes in a big company is you're so far up you have no idea what's going on down below. You don't know what's happening within the company. And somebody could really be poisoning your product, and it will surface at some point but you can't know everything, you do the best you can. 

But let me back up about what it takes, because people ask me—how much work is this? Is it full-​time? Is it part-​time? So, the requirement for a public company is that you have to have a meeting every quarter for a year and one annual meeting. So five meetings a year, there's committee work and that type of thing. And I tell women, your first year, you're probably going to spend 20 hours a week getting yourself up to speed. If you are dedicated, you're the person who really wants to get in there. And that 20 hours goes back to building the relationships that we talked about. I encourage people to build relationships with the management team, with people in the company, go to the site visits. You've got to invest time, do one-​on-​one meetings with every director so that they know you and you get to know them, really ask your questions at the committee level. You could even do side meetings with the chair of the committees if you want to get more background. Because it's a river and it's running, and you're jumping into it. So you've got a lot to catch a up with that was up upstream. 

There can be a lot of work. But once you settle in, it really is a part-​time job. It's a paid job. My mentors, who are all men, I've been mentored by men my entire career in mining and finance for 30 years. I watched them come climb the corporate ladder, get on three or four boards, retire out, they're making six figures playing golf, and they've got stock options. They're set, their family is set. And that's been my path in my own career. In fact, I was looking for my board number three and four, when I decided to divert and create a program to train other women, because I realized we didn't have that. We didn't have the training and women didn't understand it. They didn't know what a board was or–

Audrey Strong:  How do I get there? Where do I even start?  Yeah. It's amazing. We got a few minutes left. It's acellc​.consulting. I know that your winter session are sold out. For people who are interested, when are you going to do your spring sessions?

Michelle Ashby: I'm launching that in probably 1st of February, and that'll start in late April. And I also have an online product that I'm running a special on for $59.50. They can register on my website, and that's anytime, anywhere. And I offer a free coaching call with that. So, that's a good way to start because it's a primer. You get some real basics and you can figure out pretty quickly, oh, this is for me or maybe this isn't for me. 

  1. Lee Smith: I wrote the book Sales Grid, which I have over my shoulder there, and it's all about sales credibility. One of the things I really believe is very helpful in establishing your credibility is to be a member of a board. I mean, because it shows that other companies trust you for your opinion and your acumen. But I also see that it also — having that on your profile, it makes people sit up and take notice now. It's like when you speak, more people are more apt to listen. How much of impact do you see that being a board member actually has on someone's credibility and their impact whenever they speak?

Michelle Ashby: Well, that's a good question. I would say that your credibility comes from your expertise, so there would be equal kind of level. But in the business world, it's quite good because obviously it's a stamp of approval. It's your kind of award. In academics, we get to go on stage and get all these honors. In business, this would be the equivalent of that is what I would say. So, it does build credibility and people do listen to you. And I think that's the other reason why older seasoned business people are so well-​suited because you're dealing with decision making. You have to have a lot of background and a lot of experiences in a lot of places. And I mean, I'm talking failures, a lot of failures and bringing yourself back up are some of the biggest benefits that you can have when you come to that table and you're trying to solve situations. And I depend on my other directors to bring that, because we all have different backgrounds.

  1. Lee Smith: And it's one of those things that feeds off itself. You need a very high degree of credibility to even get a board position. And then once you had the board position, now you have more credibility. And so it just continues to build and build and snowball.

Michelle Ashby: Yeah, yeah, it does, actually. And there's no age limit it, by the way. So you will see like on the Berkshire Hathaway boards and some of those companies, those gentlemen are in their eighties, and I say gentlemen because they are all gentlemen at that age.

  1. Lee Smith: They're younger than Warren Buffet, right?

Michelle Ashby: Yeah. I'm a Buffeter ed, so I track that.

Audrey Strong: Well, this is great. I can't thank you enough. And it's acellc​.consulting. I know that you said that there's like 400 women who signed up during the pandemic. So take advantage of the fact that you can focus if you're working from your home, might be a good time. 

Michelle Ashby: We need women. 

  1. Lee Smith: I want to go off on a tangent a little bit, in the little bit of time that we have left. We're normally a 20-​minute show, so now we get to be a 30 minute show, which is great. You have great experience in gold. And so I wanted to ask you a question about when's a good time to buy gold and not a good time to buy gold? And then my follow up question, that's going to be cryptocurrency, are we seeing more people buying cryptocurrency rather than gold or supplementing gold, or do the two not go together at all?

Michelle Ashby: Oh my gosh. You just like tapped into my–

Audrey Strong: Disclaimer, this is not financial advice she's giving, people. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. Yeah. Okay, great. But the best time to buy gold was in 2000 when it was like $299 and now it's 1900-​something. But different ways to participate. I can tell you what my favorite way is to buy gold is to buy 24 karat gold jewelry.

Audrey Strong: Oh, jewelry.

Michelle Ashby: 24 karat gold jewelry. This is called mene, M‑E-​N‑E. And you can go online and buy this jewelry, and they will buy it back from you at spot less 10%. So, it's truly an investment in gold and you can wear it. It's amazing and it's beautifully designed. I was on their board for a year and a half, so I have to say a disclaimer, but love the deal. 

About cryptocurrency, it's a different thing, right? Cryptocurrency doesn't have the — this is a hard asset, solid thing you can carry it around, cryptocurrency is not, although with the blockchain, it is more secure. I can tell you, I have not dabbled in that. There are directors that I know who have just set aside a little bit of money to kind of play with it. And then there are people who are really adept at it. And I would say, the people who are kind of would by nature be in that category would be more of the risk-​taker, like gambling, make sure with any of that kind of stuff that it is disposable income and that stuff that you can live without if you lose all of it. I don't go there because to me it's too speculative. 

  1. Lee Smith: Yeah. You had mentioned earlier in the show about mentorship, and of course then Michelle asked me, would be great a as your mentor, but it's like, what other advice would you give to women, particularly younger women then, in finding a mentor then who can help them grow and develop and be groomed then for management positions, leadership positions, and eventually board positions?

Michelle Ashby: Right. Don't depend on a mentor to get you anywhere. You've got to show up yourself. So, I believe that my motivation and who I was, I showed up and I knew that I was competing based on my intellect and my experience. And so I know I was smart so I used that to get smart about whatever it was I was focusing on like when I was a stockbroker. And then my work ethic, like being there and being motivated, and I think I was identified — and I could have been a man or a woman, I would've been identified by mentors who showed up. All my mentors were gentlemen and wonderful people throughout my career. So, do your work first, make sure that you are working hard and making a difference yourself. And then, these are people who, what I say is they say good things to you about you like, "Great job, Audrey. You did awesome on that." And there're also people who will say great things about you in front of other people. So, they'll be like, "C. Lee, Audrey is amazing. She did da da, da, da, da." 

  1. Lee Smith: I hear it frequently. 

Michelle Ashby: Thirdly, they're the person who get in the room without you and put your name in the hat when somebody says, "Do you know somebody who could do this?" And I had that happen over and over in my career, but I worked really hard to get there and I stood up. I think what you do, C. Lee, is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I think that being good at sales, and I feel like I am because I'm a good storyteller and I love sales, so I applaud both of you for this because these are really incredible skills that I don't know, you would know better to say, can they be learned or do you just have them or is it a combination? 

  1. Lee Smith: It is a combination. Yeah. There definitely is. It's like the way your brain is wired then and your behavioral tendencies, motivational tendencies, and what you value, that determines your potential. But then it's like going from high potential to high performance, that requires a lot of work, a lot of skill, and a lot of everything. So, I definitely feel like it's both. 

Before we close out, there's one thing that I didn't get to ask you that I'm really curious about. You advise and mentor a lot of women on getting board positions, obviously, what about minority women? Is it harder for them?

Michelle Ashby: Not now. Actually, there has been a surgence of companies that are looking in particular for Black women since George Floyd. Almost every board request that I see will have that as an option if you have them on minority women. So, my group of graduates for my certification course, these are the women that I'm helping place on board. I have 81 graduates, about 10% of them are minorities, Black, Asian, South American, Latin American, et cetera. And actually, I have Eastern European. I have quite a diversity there. But as you said, we're looking for the best of the best, and they are out there, trust me. 

  1. Lee Smith: That's terrific news. I'm really happy to hear that. 

Audrey Strong: That's great news. Well, this has been great, Michelle. I want to start to cry because my 20 year old self is saying, "Why didn't I know you when I could have–" it was all about just trying to find your way and keep the wolves away from the door. There wasn't this long range thinking and plan that you're planting the seeds of with this show today, and I think it's fantastic. 

Michelle Ashby: Well, you know me now, Audrey. It's never too late. 

Audrey Strong: Yeah. It's not too late.

Michelle Ashby: We need women in boardrooms. That's my thing. We need you. We need you. We need you.

  1. Lee Smith: She'd be a great one. 

Michelle Ashby: Good. Let's get her going.

  1. Lee Smith: On our leadership team, she's a very valued member of the team here. 

Audrey Strong: Thanks. We’ll talk off air later, Michelle.

Michelle Ashby: There's your champion, right? 

  1. Lee Smith: Always. Yeah.

Audrey Strong: Thank you so much, Michelle. What a pleasure. Good luck with the program. And everybody, go to the website, sign up. And thanks again. This was great. 

Michelle Ashby: Thank you. I'm so appreciative to be your guest. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please rate and recommend on iTunes, Overcast or wherever you get your podcast. You can also get more great information at SalesFuel.com.

This podcast on female leadership in the boardroom is a part of the C‑Suite Radio Network. For more top business podcasts, visit c‑suiteradio.com.

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C. Lee Smith

C. Lee Smith

CEO and Founder at SalesFuel
C. Lee Smith is the President/​CEO of SalesFuel - a firm he founded in 1989. He was named one of the 14 Leading Sales Consultants by Selling Power magazine. Lee is the creator of the AdMall® and SalesFuel COACH™ SaaS platforms. He is also a Gitomer Certified Advisor, expert on the Sales Experts Channel and a C‑Suite Network Advisor.
C. Lee Smith

@cleesmith

CEO of @SalesFuel | Bestselling Author of "SalesCred" and "Hire Smarter, Sell More!" | Keynote Speaker | Certified Behavioral Analyst | Sales Credibility Expert
SalesFuel Launches TeamTrait™ Cloud-​​based Assessment Tool to Hire Smarter, Optimize Teams and Retain Talent… https://t.co/Jk0Paaq4RX — 1 hour ago
C. Lee Smith