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Diversifying the Next Generation of Board Leaders

Edna Twumwaa Frimpong

Diversifying the Next Generation of Board Leaders

Listen to Episode 80 on Apple Podcasts

Guests: Stuart Cable, Vice Chair and Global Chair of M&A at Goodwin and Alexandra Kennedy, Director of Client Services at Twitter

Hosts: Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director of the Diligent Institute, and Meghan Day, Senior Director of Board Member Experience for Diligent Corporation

Summary:

In this episode of The Corporate Director Podcast, Stuart Cable, Vice Chair and Global Chair of M&A at Goodwin, and Alexandra Kennedy, Director of Client Services at Twitter, discuss Goodwin’s GOOD Directors program, a national leadership opportunity focused on accelerating diversity in the boardroom.

In This Episode:

  1. Inspiration for the GOOD Directors Program: Cable shares how the GOOD director program came about.
  2. Making Quick Progress: Cable discusses how the program as been received. Kennedy adds her perspective as a program graduate.
  3. Expert Advice for Board Leaders : Cable and Kennedy give practical steps for new and aspiring board directors and less represented directors as to how to advance their careers.

Inspiration for the GOOD Directors Program

Cable gives some background on the GOOD Directors’ program: “I’ve been fixated on good corporate governance for much of my career. To this regard, 15 years ago, I launched a program for directors of our public company clients intended to bring them all together for one full day a year to teach one another about best practices in the boardroom. When the pandemic began, I realized that putting everyone in a room was not a great idea. So, we moved virtual.”

Cable continues: “A co-director of our educational program and I seized on the idea of doing something with diverse next-generation candidates. The aim is to give opportunities to those who had not yet had the chance to serve as directors. We were incredibly gratified to see the client response: Every one of our clients invited to participate accepted and inundated us with candidates. We had 200 nominees for the program, and we selected around 25  of these next generation diverse leaders to be our inaugural class.”

We launched GOOD Directors as an ecosystem between our clients and recruited 25 of our venture capital private equity clients to serve as “allies.” We did not expect to receive money from them, but their support, participation, and most importantly, their best next-generation director candidates.”

- Stuart Cable, Vice Chair and Global Chair of M&A at Goodwin

Making Quick Progress

Cable sheds light on the success of the program: “The response from clients and business community at large has been overwhelming. We’re receiving queries from people we’ve never heard of. We really feel that we are taking the best of the best and educating them to a substantive degree. We have also sought to match prospective candidates to open spots on boardrooms, and it has been a great experience.”

He goes on, “We’re honored to be matchmakers here. The world has changed in a market-wide way. I’m optimistic about what public company board composition will look like in a few years compared to what it was just a few years ago.”

Kennedy also shares her experience as a GOOD Director graduate: “This program was both informative and resulted in real action. It’s doing the work to remove all potential excuses for why you don’t see more diversity on boards. I have met with some of the leading global executive search and board placement companies. I’ve built relationships with premier directors, and opportunities are being presented to me that would not have occurred otherwise.”

There is a genuine excitement and fervor about adding diversity in the boardroom. 10 years ago, we were desperately trying to get women into the boardroom, and now lots of progress was made.”

-Stuart Cable, Vice Chair and Global Chair of M&A at Goodwin

The curriculum of the program was robust which includes governance best practices, shareholder engagement, boards’ role in the M&A sphere, activist investors, and more. More than that, the network the program introduced to us is beyond words.”

- Alexandra Kennedy, Director of Client Services at Twitter

Expert advice for Board Leaders

Kennedy gives recommendations to aspiring directors of diverse background on how to break into the boardroom:  “What I would say is no different from what I’d say to any ambitious person looking to land their next role. Be an expert at what you’re currently doing is the first step. You need to be exceptional.”

She adds, “Next, build relationships. When you have those relationships, people have a vested interest in you that helps you reach new heights and tap new opportunities. The last thing is to make your aspirations known. It’s hard to help people when you don’t know what they want. Feel empowered and bold to say that you want to be on a corporate board.”

Elaborating, Kennedy explains, “When we go back to how Stuart and I met, I followed my own advice. I met my own directors when I was an operator at Under Armor, and they saw a grit and potential in me. We’ve remained close as our careers diverged. Through that, they asked me to be on their nonprofit advisory board. In natural conversations over time, I told them that I want to be a board director. So when this program got launched, my name was top of mind for them. Build the relationships long before you need anything.”

Also in this episode…

Cable gives insight as to when next cohort will begin for the GOOD Directors program: “We are planning the launch of GOOD Directors 2022 as we speak. My co-director Lisa and I met earlier today to discuss our launch. It will look very much like last year’s program, but new and expanded. We are serious about that educational piece in addition to the networking, so we’re taking the time to line up some really spectacular speakers. Now, we have candidates, allies to nominate people and find speakers, our champions who are world-class directors serving as mentors, and now we have a fourth piece of the ecosystem, which is our alumni network. We expect it to be a bit larger than last year, but still selective.”

Both guests also shared their opinion on how boards are likely to change in the future. Cable shared his opinion: “The makeup of boardrooms will change. We’ll move beyond diversity in the traditional sense to diversity of thought. When I came up through this business, boardrooms were older and whiter, and the perspectives were mostly the same. There were no HR professionals in the room for example, or people who understand ESG. This will change.”

Kennedy adds: “I agree with Stuart. The board’s responsibility is to mitigate risk, and to do that in this landscape you need different perspectives: racial, gender, actual generational diversity as well. Boards need to look more like the consumers they serve.”

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Edna Twumwaa Frimpong
Edna Frimpong is an experienced research analyst with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. In her role with the Diligent Institute, Edna oversees and directs corporate governance research projects and partnerships internationally, outside the US. She joined Diligent Institute in 2021 after six years with CGLytics' -- a corporate governance analytics firm based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, acquired by Diligent -- where she served as Head of Research for the EMEA region. Previously, Edna held research positions at firms including Sustainanalytics and Carnomise.' She received her Master's Degree in Finance and Law from the Duisenberg School of Finance in Amsterdam, and her Bachelor's Degree in Administration, Insurance and Risk Management from the University of Ghana.