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Ep. 106: Being Courageous, with Serial Entrepreneur and Corporate Board Member Betsy Atkins

Written by Eryn Johnson

“Be with people who stretch you. That you learn from. That may even tell you hard truths that are a little uncomfortable to hear, but you need to swim forward and find those people you grow from and you grow with, and those people who are willing to help or that you can learn from.”

In this episode of the Women Killing It! Podcast, host Sally Hubbard introduces us to Betsy Atkins, a 3-time CEO, a serial entrepreneur & founder of Baja Corporation. She has co-founded enterprise software companies in multiple industries including energy, healthcare and networking. Betsy has sat on more than 60 public and private boards and shares her expertise in her book, “Behind Boardroom Doors: Lessons of a Corporate Director.”

“I just think we have to be courageous and believe in ourselves and go forward.”

In this episode, Betsy shares her path to getting on so many boards in a world where there are few women on boards. When she started her career, Betsy quickly learned that she was too entrepreneurial for big companies and moved into the world of innovative startups.

"It was a goal of mine to always be in a leadership role and to be in the boardroom.”

While raising the first round of funding for her first startup company, she realized that the decisions were going to be made in the boardroom, and if she wasn’t there she wouldn’t be able to steer the company to its best growth position. She knew she needed a seat at the table, so she made it a condition of funding.

“Once we’re in the seat, they see how much we bring.”

Now, about 24% of seats on all public boards in America are female. Just over a third (37%) of all the Fortune 500 board seats are being filled by women right now. After the glacial progress in the past, progress has finally started to happen more quickly, creating more space for more women on boards.

“I'm a believer that there is serendipity and it's up to you to grab it as you go, but you ought to have a plan. I ended up on public corporate boards because I planned to get here. I wanted to get here. I tried to figure out how would I be valuable. How and why would anybody want to invite me ​into the board?”

Listen to this episode to get inspired by Betsy’s lessons learned in the boardroom.