Fiona is an experienced Executive Director with particular expertise in marketing and business development who has worked extensively in the not-for-profit and charity sectors. As MD of Ballantyne Mackay Consultants she provides business development, strategic marketing and market research services, focusing on tourism, the arts and the cultural and heritage sectors. Clients include major public sector organisations, small trusts and charities, academic institutions and private sector companies.
Fiona is currently;
* The Chair of Museums and Galleries of Scotland
* The representative for Scotland on the Communications Consumer Panel (set up under the Communications Act to promote and protect the interests of consumers in the markets regulated by Ofcom)
* A member of the Board of OSCR, the Scottish Charities Regulator
* a Trustee of Music at the Brewhouse, a small start-up organisation set up to engage children and young people with a diverse range of music and to encourage their own musical experimentation.
1. What attracted you to apply for your current board position?
* OSCR, I am very interested in governance issues and this is something that is very pertinent to the charity sector. Many of my clients were charitable organisations so I had a feel for some of the key issues for the sector. I think that the charity sector is extremely important but think that it is also important that it is well regulated so that the public can have confidence that their donations reach the people for whom they are intended.
* Communications Consumer Panel – a strong interest in communications and concern about the growing digital divide created by things like age, low income or, in rural areas, the fact that you don’t have a reliable, fast broadband signal. More and more things, including access to public services, are going on line so we need to make sure a) that we make it possible for the 25% of people not yet on line (35% in Scotland) to get on line and have a safety net for those who can’t. Also regulators are lobbied heavily by industry representatives and an articulate consumer voice (provided by the Panel) is needed as a counterweight.
* MGS; a life-long interest in Scotland’s culture and heritage linked to the fact that I did a lot of work in this sector as a consultant. Joined as a board member initially and applied for the chairmanship when it became available.
* Music at the Brewhouse; I really like what they are trying to do and admire the people trying to do it.
2. Did your career path lead to your current board role, for example by providing you with specific sector experience relevant to the board?
Yes, in the broadest sense, but it’s as much about the range of experience you have had as about your professional or work related skills (e.g. finance, marketing etc). For example, I think that the reasons I got to the interview stage of the Communications Consumer Panel recruitment process included the fact that I had been a member of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, a board member of a telephony company and had also been involved in setting up an on-line company. In other words, I was familiar with a number of the markets Ofcom regulates, although none of this came directly from my main career path.
All of the board members of OSCR have a knowledge of the charities sector and its needs, but as well as people who have been employed by charities, we include people who have worked as advisors to charities, people who’ve been Trustees of charities and people who have been volunteers in the sector. You have to have a degree of understanding of the sector for a public appointment, but this can have been developed in a number of ways.
I think people often overlook skills they have – e.g., your job might have given you really good skills in risk analysis and management, which might make you attractive to certain organisations e.g. in the environmental or health sectors.
3. What do you get out of board membership?
Intellectual stimulation, a chance to use the experience I’ve gained in a different way, involvement in things that I believe are important, a chance to work with some very, very bright young people, a chance to support and encourage people who are doing difficult jobs or who have to implement difficult strategies, sometimes the chance to help improve things for consumers who are disadvantaged or not empowered to make a difference themselves, and sometimes just a chance to try to make a difference rather than just complain about the fact that something’s not working the way it should.
4. Should the Scottish Government be encouraging more women to apply for positions on the boards of NDPBs? If so, how?
Yes they should! I think there’s a marketing problem here. Most public appointment ads tell you what they want from you, but not what you might get back. It’s not about money (see above) but it is a two way street. Governance has become a much bigger and higher profile issue, quite rightly, but people are more aware of the responsibilities they carry as directors and trustees and can be less willing to put themselves forward so I think we need a correspondingly higher awareness of the benefits of taking on such a role. I think women are less inclined, anyway, to put themselves forward but there are some good role models out there.
Sometimes it helps to have had some board experience before going for a public appointment, and perhaps there’s a process of encouraging women to join the boards of smaller organisations as a stepping stone. Scotland’s charity sector could benefit enormously from this, particularly at a time when they are experiencing problems in attracting high quality trustees! Arts and Business run an excellent Board Bank scheme.
5. Do you speak to other women about opportunities or positions on the boards of NDPBs, either to encourage them to apply or simply to hear their views of the application or appointments process?
Yes, I am putting together a list of my contacts who either hold public appointments or are interested in doing so for the Commissioner at the moment.
6. Are there barriers to women who wish to sit on a board?
Fewer now than at any time in the past. Most boards are aware of issues like gender balance. You do have to work at it, it doesn’t just happen and is like any job application – you have to identify the areas where your skills will be most valued and be able to articulate what it is that you will be bringing to the boardroom table.