This piece was developed by a leading group of chief legal officers and other corporate governance experts* convened by the Thirty Percent Coalition. It contains suggested steps and educational efforts that chief legal officers can take to help accelerate gender diversity on corporate boards.
- Board diversity represents best practice in corporate governance. It is an essential part of good business strategy that has been shown to increase bottom-line benefits, lower risk profile and enhance reputational stature.
- To be diverse a corporate board should be comprised of men and women who bring different thoughts, insights and perspectives as well as a wide variety of skills and experiences. While women are the predominant group affected by their low representation in director positions, they are in fact a proxy for a broad definition of diversity that includes skills, experience, race, ethnicity, age, geography and economic status. Organizational leadership starts with the board and board diversity expresses and reinforces, for all stakeholders, a company’s commitment to promoting inclusion throughout the organization.
- Chief legal officers with responsibility for advising chief executive officers (CEOs), board chairs and directors on board governance practices, including the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the composition of board members, are well positioned to advance diversity in corporate boardrooms and act as advocates for this needed change.
Chief legal officers can help achieve gender diversity on corporate boards by pursuing, advocating and promoting the following best practices:
- Taking steps to ensure that board committees responsible for director recruiting (typically, nominating and governance committees) routinely include female candidates in the pool from which director nominees are chosen for every board search.
- Encouraging director searches to go beyond CEOs as director nominees and include candidates such as C-suite officers and individuals from diverse environments and backgrounds, such as former government, academia, and non-profit organizations.
- Assisting CEOs with identifying senior executive women within the company who are potential board candidates and helping to develop and sponsor these women for membership on corporate boards, consistent with company policy.
- Ensuring that the search firms engaged by boards understand that corporate leaders are committed to recruiting women, people of color and individuals from various ethnic backgrounds as candidates.
Chief legal officers can influence their peers to advance gender diversity by:
- Being spokespersons and sharing personal experiences and successful strategies for advancing gender diversity in corporate boardrooms.
- Developing a leadership group of chief legal officers who can share best practices and leverage their collective voice for change.
*Committee members include: Alan Bryan, Sr. Assoc. General Counsel, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Marcy Cohen, General Counsel ING Americas; Kathleen Franklin, Sony Corporation of America; Denise Kuprionis, President, The Governance Solutions Group; Roberta Liebenberg, Sr. Partner, Fine Kaplan and Black and Chair DirectWomen; Mary Quazzo, VP, Principal Counsel and Secretary Bechtel Group, Inc.; Margaret Seif, SVP, GC and Secretary Analog Devices, Inc.; Linda Willett, Sr. VP, General Counsel and Secretary, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
The views expressed are those of the individual participants and may not represent the official views of their respective employers or organizations.
Published July 13, 2016.