When Gov. Newsom signed AB979 into law on September 30, he opened the door to meaningfully increasing the contribution of leaders from underrepresented professionals of color to the boards of California’s 662 publicly traded companies.
Amid this heightened awareness and momentum and as part of its commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution, Santa Clara University is launching a program to prepare senior Black executives for service on the boards of private and public companies in Silicon Valley, across the state, and nationwide.
The Black Corporate Board Readiness (BCBR) program is designed for executives and entrepreneurs with significant senior leadership experience who are interested in public or private corporate board service. Offered through Santa Clara University’s Silicon Valley Executive Center, the BCBR program seeks to accelerate diversity in corporate governance with a goal of better business performance and encouraging racial justice.
“The response of venture capital, private equity, and executive search firms to the Black Corporate Board Readiness program concept and launch is incredibly heartening,” said Dennis Lanham, executive director of Silicon Valley Executive Center. “Our extraordinary Program Advisory Council has guided us in designing a program that largely includes facilitators, mentors and advisors with lived experience of being seasoned Black corporate directors on many of the largest firms in Silicon Valley and beyond.”
The first cohort of up to 25 participants will start online Feb. 4, 2021; a second cohort will start July 22, 2021. The BCBR program content comprises three major categories: the nuts and bolts of corporate governance; value proposition and recruiting process for board membership, and authentic discussions about the experiences and unique responsibilities as a Black board member. In addition to more than a dozen facilitated modules, each participant will engage in four hours of individualized mentoring and will meet a customized panel of senior advisers who will provide further feedback and networking recommendations.
The BCBR program builds on the success and insights from a similar SVEC program that prepares women for board service, the Women Corporate Board Readiness program, launched in 2019 and now recruiting for its fifth cohort, with 54 women in its alumni ranks.
Both programs offer Santa Clara University alumni a tuition discount, and corporations can sponsor their executives in these board readiness programs as a way to demonstrate commitment to diversity while advancing business interests.
“Diversity matters when it comes to results, as numerous studies confirm. This program aims to provide tangible experiences and skills to prepare Black executives for board service,” said Shellye Archambeau, former CEO of MetricStream, a member of several boards including Verizon, and author of Unapologetically Ambitious. “Board membership expands influence, builds or nurtures relationships, and helps leaders keep informed about cutting-edge issues in their industries and related ones. This program will help any leader feel comfortable finding their place in the corporate board ecosystem.”
The opportunity is vast. Of the 662 publicly traded companies headquartered in California, 233 have all-white boards. Nationally, about 21.1 percent of new board members at S&P 500 companies in 2019 were people of color, as were only 15 percent at the 3,000 largest U.S. publicly traded companies.
The BCBR Program Advisory Council members, each of whom has extensive board experience, include:
- Caretha Coleman, chair, The Leverage Network
- Mark Goodman, chairman, MG Capital Holdings
- Almaz Negash, founder and executive director, African Diaspora Network
- Desirée Stolar, senior director, Management Leadership for Tomorrow
- Robin Washington, former EVP and general counsel, Gilead Sciences
- Barry Lawson Williams, retired managing general partner of Williams Pacific Ventures
Partners include Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Nasdaq Governance Solutions, The Boardlist, Trewstar Corporate Board Services, Stage 4 Solutions, African Diaspora Network, and Diligent. Sponsors include The Diversified Search Group and law firms Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
As part of the launch of the BCBR, Santa Clara University is hosting a series of Conversations on Diversity in Silicon Valley. Registration is free and open to the public.