Major corporations in the U.S. have pledged to add at least one Black person to its board of directors within the next year as part of an initiative called The Board Challenge.
Founded by Altimeter Capital, Valence and theBoardlist, the initiative seeks to improve the diversity of corporate boards starting with the representation of Black leaders.
Historically underrepresented in America’s public and private boardrooms Black leaders make up only nine percent of Fortune 500 company board members.
Approximately 66 percent are white men and 18 percent of members are white women, according to a report by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte.
While many companies tout their commitment to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, progress at the boardroom level is limited.
According to Black Enterprise, about 37 percent of S&P 500 companies did not have any Black directors in 2019 – only a two percent improvement since 2018.
“America has been reminded again in tragic fashion that we must redouble our efforts to build a more inclusive society Business leaders can’t let this moment pass us by without playing our part and taking this tangible step to build a more diverse boardroom,” Brad Gerstner, founder and CEO of Altimeter Capital and co-founder of The Board Challenge, said.
“As a next step, we are encouraging companies to take the pledge and add a Black director in the next 12 months. The Board Challenge is a movement to accelerate these changes and help companies tap into the energy and talents of all underrepresented groups.”
The initiative has been signed by 17 Founding Pledge Partners and supported by 27 Charter Pledge Partners that already have at least one Black director.
Founding Pledge Partners who commit to adding at least one Black director to their respective boards in the next 12 months include: Accolade, Altimeter Growth Corp, Amperity, Bolster, Gusto, Heritage-Crystal Clean, Inc., Heritage Environmental Services, HopSkipDrive, Kin, M.M.LaFleur, NeXT door, PagerDuty, RealSelf, Ripple, Senreve, Vinyl Me, Please, and Zillow.
The Board Challenge co-founders say they will check in with the organizations within six months and at 12 months to evaluate their progress in adding a Black director.
They add that true and full racial representation at the board level is in the best interest of companies, employees, customers and communities — and helps to advance and support a more equitable society.
As part of taking the pledge, The Board Challenge co-founders will provide partners with access to qualified talent to help in their search and recruitment of Black director candidates, while supporters will offer resources and training.
“One objection we hear is whether companies can find the kind of diverse board talent they are looking for. It is 2020 – it is not a pipeline problem, it is a perspective problem,” Guy Primus, CEO of Valence and co-founder of The Board Challenge, said.
“Valence alone is connected to hundreds of board-ready leaders from every position imaginable.”
“Another objection is that the focus on diverse candidates is too narrow. We know focus yields results and this is the start of a much bigger movement,” Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and chairman of theBoardlist and co-founder of The Board Challenge, said.
“theBoardlist has been focused on diversifying boards since 2015 and we know that making the commitment to look outside one’s network and dedicating the effort to be inclusive is ultimately what works.”