Transforming Corporate Boards

Establishing diverse boards that are more than a rubber stamp for the CEO, that are strategic rather than compliant, is the real key. But how does such a board composition come about?

Anne M. Perusek Director of Editorial and Publicationsopening thoughts headshot

Women engineers who prepare to join boards are well positioned to bring the expertise and diverse life experience that contribute to better and more thoughtful decision-making.

From time to time, headlines report of activist board members whose influence causes a company or organization to reverse long-standing policies and practices. This is one avenue toward change, but from a long-term and perhaps less dramatic perspective, establishing boards that are truly diverse is a pathway to change.

In this edition of SWE, we examine both corporate and nonprofit boards. Insights from experts on the workings of corporate boards make the point that what is needed now are boards that are more transparent, diverse, knowledgeable, and involved in setting the course for the companies they lead. What once was considered diverse—having one or two women or minorities —is not enough, plus diversity is an evolving concept.

Additionally, they argue that the composition of the board should mirror a company’s community and customers. Accordingly, women engineers who prepare to join boards are well positioned to bring the expertise and diverse life experience that contribute to better and more thoughtful decision-making.

Yet, how does one become a board member? In our Career Pathways article, “Finding a Place and a Voice on Corporate and Nonprofit Boards,” three SWE members who currently serve on boards share tips and observations alongside advice from industry experts. Offering more perspective, the Reinvention article, “What Do Parenting and Sitting on a Board of Directors Have in Common?” discusses the mental shift one must make when moving from an engineering leader role to a board member position.


Rounding out our exploration, “Reflections on My Board of Directors Journey” is a trio of essays by SWE members who describe how they came to join different boards, the value they bring to the table, and what they have gained from the experience.

Addressing an issue that no company or nonprofit can avoid — either directly or indirectly — our feature “The State of Infrastructure” is a timely and compelling topic. Data from the ASCE recent report card on United States infrastructure, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, provide the robust assessment needed to maintain systems now and invest in the future.

Just as important as traditional infrastructure is the digital environment and cybersecurity. Our digital-only feature, “Taking Back the Internet,” examines ethical hacking and methods of keeping our digital world safe.

Academic leadership has been addressed annually in our fall issue for many years. This time, we look back at all the women deans of engineering we have interviewed and revisit some of their advice and encouragement. We also look at where they are now and bring fresh material and insights from two of the earliest deans. See “Women Leaders in Academe 2021.”

Please check out our News & Advocacy section for the latest data on diversity in the academic pipeline, intriguing sustainability efforts, and DEI efforts in SWE and across the world.

Anne M. Perusek
Director of Editorial and Publications