board diversity

Old Attitudes Die Hard

We're often asked why it's taking so long for companies to diversify their boards.  Several studies in the news hint that hidden bias may be the culprit and a leading cause for discrimination in settings like academia, business and even the courts.
A few weeks ago I had jury duty. Waiting to see if I'd get picked for a trial, I watched a video about the Massachusetts court system. Here's what I learned:
Women in Massachusetts were only permitted to serve on juries in 1950 -- a full 30 years after getting the right to vote. My liberal home state was 39th in the nation to allow women defendants to be judged by their peers. In 1975 the US Supreme Court made it the law of the land, ruling that women could not be excluded from the jury pool. In 1979, the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled that particular traits, including race and gender, could not be used to strike potential jurors. The landmark decision, Commonwealth v. Soares, is considered to mark the end of permissible gender bias in the selection of jurors in Massachusetts. [1]
The end of permissible bias ... there's the rub! Only 40 years ago (less than two generations) juries were comprised of white men. This 'norm' informed our social and cultural memory. It got me to wondering: Can you overcome gender bias without regulation, and if so, how long does it take? Is it a matter of years or might it take generations?

Want to get on a corporate board? Make it your New Year's resolution!

One of the things we learned from our National Conversation on Board Diversity on 12/12/12 is that people want more tactical information on how to get on a board of directors. So, just how do you crack the code? Here are a few tips to get you going. Make it part of your New Years' resolution!
1. Make your intentions known:  Work your network, identifying those who are most likely to be in a position to help. Friends, business associates, industry contacts, and your boss may be in a position to help you open the right doors. It's all about whom you know and who knows you are interested in being on a corporate board. If you serve on non-profits, fellow board members could be included in your search.
2. Think about industries you know about and identify companies in those industries: Know your strengths and stick to what you know. Identify companies in the industry and closely related fields: your target list. Start with companies close to home, and expand the search from there. If you've had board experience, it may be easier to land a seat on a larger company board. But if you're a newbie, smaller, local companies will be easier.
3. Make a short list of directors: Once you have your target list, identify the directors on those company boards. Then work your network. Look to see if you know any of the directors on the boards. If you don't, the people in your network might. That's your short list.
4. Communicate your interest: Contact the people on your short list. Try to set up a meeting, preferably a lunch meeting. Express your interest. Ask for support. Be prepared.

Think Big

When we had the idea to commemorate 12/12/12 with a national conversation on board diversity there was only one thing to do, jump in with both feet. Our 1 1/2 year old campaign was doing well, but it was hardly the national phenomenon we know it will become. Our outreach strategy, forming 2020 Chapters in cities across the US, had not yet been realized. How to pull off a national event without budget or infrastructure? Think big.
We had organized the first 2020 Chapter in New Orleans early in the campaign. In 2012 we added two chapters, in Boston and New York. Each chapter, made up of volunteers committed to the 2020 mission, was charged with organizing an event. But three events could hardly be described as a national effort. In the end New Orleans held one, Boston held two and New York, the city that never sleeps, held four. Then there were seven.
We talked to everyone we knew: 2020 sponsors, affiliates, our board of leaders, colleges and universities and colleagues in like-minded organizations. We worked with Women on Line to help with our social media strategy and with YPO/WIN's event consultant, Kelly Kelly to help us with outreach. Breanna Bakke our Assistant Director became a whiz at EventBrite. Our friends at ION, Catalyst, the 30% Coalition and 85 Broads helped.
In July we had 15 events on the calendar. By the September there were 20. We signed on our 27th event last week, at the Leeds School of Business, University of Boulder. And on 12/12/12 we learned that Dassault Systemes, in Waltham, MA was holding an event for their women employees. Now there were 28.

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