27 September 2018

Why more women should consider applying for LEP board positions

Why more women should consider applying for LEP board positions

Ahead of the LEP Network Women Leaders’ Roundtable, Sara Uzzell, board member for Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, speaks about the benefits of non-executive positions and calls for more women to consider applying for LEP board positions.

Not enough women are putting themselves forward for non-executive positions at Local Enterprise Partnerships. A recent job advertisement for new board members at Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership saw only one in eleven applications from women. More must be done to promote the opportunities and benefits to business women of acting in a voluntary capacity as board members for LEPs. While the immediate ‘benefactor’ of the contributions made by experienced non-paid board members would appear to be the LEPs, there are equally clear benefits to the board members themselves. There are several compelling reasons to apply for board member positions:

  • You become part of a team that directly pitches for central government funding for economic development and influences how it is allocated in the area you live and work in. This has a real impact on the economic growth prospects of your local area. It is all about focusing on the best opportunities for increasing productivity and attracting talent to the area as well as tackling the key issues such as skills, housing and infrastructure.  Being on the board of a LEP gives you a real voice and influence on local economic investment decisions. Government is closer than you think.
  • LEPs aren’t just looking for corporate CEO style experience. LEPs need and want ‘normal’ business people too. Equally relevant is experience gained running a SME, as an entrepreneur or a leader in a significant local business – those who have worked at the coal-face of industry and bring a wealth of skills from finance and customer services to marketing and IT.
  • The intellectual challenges, development and satisfaction gained from being a board member is a real highlight of the job. You don’t need to be an expert in everything to qualify for board member status. Don’t underestimate the value of your area of expertise. It’s about being cognizant of, and confident in, what you have to offer and understanding when and how to add value.
  • Collaborative working is another high point of being on a LEP board. You meet and work with talented people, cross fertilizing your professional assets to huge economic benefit and effect. LEP board members get the opportunity for close contact with the business success stories in their area as well as to understand first-hand the challenges for business growth. This enables their LEP to stay close to business and the local economy in order to submit confident, well evidenced submissions to government for funding future projects.      

Being a non-executive board member is an interesting and rewarding experience. You not only make a real, valuable contribution to the economic success of your local area, but you work with inspiring people on exciting, challenging projects. More women should consider applying for non-executive board member positions. The experience and insights brought to the board by having more women in business would be hugely valuable and make a positive difference to LEPs.

Sara Uzzell held several senior executive positions in the software and services sector in London before moving to Bournemouth 15 years ago. Since then she owned a successful hotel, hospitality and a tour operator business, which was sold in 2018. She is currently in the process of setting up a new marketing business. She became a private sector board member for Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership in July 2016.

Further information about the Dorset LEP board can be found on our Meet the Board page. 

About the LEP Network

The LEP Network is a gateway to news and information that enables LEPs to come together on areas of shared importance, engage with government, facilitate dialogue with economic development stakeholders, and share knowledge and best practice.

The LEP Network Women Leaders’ Rountable brings together women in business to discuss how the organisation might be more proactive in attracting women business leaders onto LEP boards. The event will bring together senior business women from organisations across the country, and female politicians, to discuss ways in which we might encourage diversity at board-level.

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