The Elimination of All-Male Boards

November 26, 2018

Before the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 National Conversation on Board Diversity in Seattle. The event was sponsored by 2020 Women on Boards, a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020.

The event featured a highly respected panel including Adriane Brown (Director, eBay, Allergan, Raytheon), Mark Mader (President & CEO, Smartsheet), and Lynda Ziegler (Chairman of the Board, Itron). The panelists discussed the critical importance of board diversity and the positive impact women are making on boards today.

If a board position is on your list of aspirations, here are a few key pieces of advice from the panelists on how to position yourself for the job:

·      Adriane Brown encouraged attendees to dip their toes in the water with a non-profit board if they do not have prior experience in this area. Non-profits can provide a good sense of how boards operate, and help you build out your network. She also commented that boards are looking for members that have passion for their career choice. Highlight the cycles of learning from your day job and how they’ve prepared you for a board role.

·      Mark Mader commented that the “ability to be present” is the chief characteristic he looks for in a board member. He emphasized that presence is as equally important as skillset as it demonstrates a commitment to engagement. Mark also emphasized that companies need to look past pre-recs when considering board members and evaluate management experience. This is telling of the value a board member can bring to an organization.

·      Lynda Ziegler shared that she looks for defined skillsets in areas where a board may fall short such as security or legal. Do your homework and know what gaps you can fill for a company’s board. She also discussed the importance of including diverse candidates in a board search from the beginning so you have a pool of candidates that offer a variety of experiences.

In doing some additional research into the topics above, I was surprised to see that while more and more women are earning board seats, this doesn’t seem to be the trend for companies at IPO. According to key findings in the 2018 Gender Diversity Index, “women hold just 9.2% of the board seats in the largest 25 IPO companies in 2017, up from 8.2% women in 2016, but below the 4-year average of 9.4%. Twelve of the 25 companies went public with no women, and 80% went public with none or only one woman on their boards.”

I am proud to support an organization like 2020 Women on Boards, which is bringing critical awareness to this issue and driving positive change in the boardroom.


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