Between 2017 and 2021, the number of HR leaders, active or retired, appointed to corporate boards at Russell 3000 companies increased 300%, according to global executive search firm Allegis Partners. And while only 8% of those companies had boards with an HR leader as a director by the end of 2021, there’s a clear trend emerging: Boards increasingly want a talent expert in the room.

“It's a great time to be a CHRO, because all roads are leading to how to really think about creating that environment where people want to work and people will thrive,” says Edith Cooper, a board member at Amazon and PepsiCo and the co-founder of the coaching platform Medley.

But getting that board seat as an HR professional will still require a lot of effort. “You've got to make it happen yourself,” says Michael Useem, professor of management at Wharton. “The only person who's going to be able to engineer your placement on a board is you. You're at the center of it.”

In the second part of our two-part series on CHROs and boards of directors, I spoke with several sources to understand how HR leaders can position themselves to eventually serve on corporate boards:

  • Cooper, who prior to her roles at Amazon, PepsiCo, and Medley was a partner, EVP, and head of human capital management at Goldman Sachs.
  • Martha Brooks, a board member at Volvo Group and Constellium and a former board member at Jabil, Harley-Davidson, and International Paper.
  • Jenny Dearborn, a board member at talent assessment technology company Plum and beqom, a compensation and performance management platform, and the former chief people officer at Klaviyo.
  • Skip Maloney, SVP and CHRO at Aspen Technology.
  • Coco Brown, a board member at ArcherPoint, an insights council member at Nasdaq Center for Board Excellence, and the founder and CEO of The Athena Alliance, an executive education company.
  • Useem, a professor of management at Wharton who teaches programs for mid-career professionals who serve—or want to serve—on corporate boards.

Here’s their advice:


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