Board Diversity in 2019

Lessons from the Front

Dotty Schaffer, May 7th, 2019

Since the passage of California State Law #826, my firm has heard from dozens of public companies as they try to diversify their boards. Often, this is the first time that these board have considered using a search firm for the effort. Our Managing Partner Mark Lonergan, who is also the Chairman of the Silicon Valley Directors' Exchange, estimates that 80% of the public company board searches performed on the West Coast in 2018 were internally sourced.

We do a great number of board searches – including a significant number of searches focused on qualified female and minority candidates. In the course of this wok, we have learned some lessons about how to conduct these projects in order to improve the board’s quality while diversifying its members:

  1. No one wants to be a token – anything Prospective board candidates often know they’re being courted because they fill a diversity need. What they really want to know is that they will be considered a FULL member of the company’s board, contributing to the company in the process. They want to be admired and respected for who they are and what they can offer.
  2. Women want to hear from Women – period Statured female candidates are often getting inundated with offers to join public boards in 2019. Before they commit to investigating your opportunity, they want to hear from someone they trust about the current board (and CEO) and their chance for adding value. Statured female partners can help in this outreach process.
  3. The market is full of really statured candidates In Silicon Valley alone, there are hundreds of well-trained and highly-experienced candidates for board roles – people who have distinguished themselves in managing really important businesses in their careers.
  4. Many Diversity candidates will not have prior Board experience We ask our board clients to consider development programs for these new board members, giving them some understanding of the role of a board member inside their company. This is a role often played by the Board Chairman or perhaps the Chair of Nom&Gov.

In my time here at Lonergan Partners, I have been involved with over 150 board searches – many of these related to diversity search. I would be happy to chat with you if you’d like to know more.