By: Grace Austin
The lack of board diversity is one of the leading issues in corporate diversity, as women and minorities continue to make strides in other areas. Through work of the WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Global Institute, the WCD Global Nominating Commission has launched a series of initiatives this year will focus on improving board diversity globally.
“Rhetoric cannot become a substitute for a prelude to action. WCD is committed to strengthening the role of women as directors, the performance of the companies on whose boards we serve on, and accelerating corporate governance globally,” says founder Susan Stautberg.
Comprised of board nominating chairs, committee members, and CEOs, the WCD has over 2,000 members serving on more than 3,000 boards across six continents. There are currently fifty-two chapters worldwide. A chapter in Turkey will be launched in May. Future chapters are also planned in Calgary, India; Columbus, Ohio; Egypt; Iceland; Montreal; Poland; and South Korea.
Women, as reported by Catalyst, currently hold only 16.6 percent of seats at Fortune 500 companies. Recent reports by GMI Ratings show little progress in female board representation over the past year. Since 2009, the percentage of female directors on U.S. boards that GMI tracked grew by only 1.9 percentage points.
The WCD, “the only global membership organization and community of women corporate directors,” was originally founded around Susan Stautberg’s dining room table in 2000. It formally opened its first chapter outside New York in 2001.
Stautberg, the president of PartnerCom Corporation, which creates and manages advisory boards, came up with the idea to share best practices on corporate leadership. The WCD works as a platform for ideas to overcoming governing challenges.
“Women Corporate Directors (WCD) is an important resource for women on private and corporate boards. It provides members an opportunity to discuss governance, best practices and strategies to improve both company and board performance,” says Brenda Gaines, a corporate director on the AGL Resources, Fannie Mae, Office Depot, and Tenet Healthcare boards.
The organization’s events work at bringing women directors together and discussing the challenges facing equality and women in the corporate world. Their flagship event is the WCD annual Global Institute. Other events like Chapter Dinners, held three to four times per year; Roundtables with Bloomberg, in which the WCD hosts roundtables with Bloomberg journalists; and Board Training Curriculum, where WCD leaders host seminars for women seeking to become board members, further this work.
The Commission has recently developed Best Practices for Director Selection and Development as a tool for nominating committees and other influencers of board diversity. Produced by KPMG, it pulls together best practices for diversity as well as links to articles and thought leadership about diverse boards and governance practices; research reports on the metrics and impact of diversity; and director databases and education tools.
This is accompanied by the “Roadmap,” also developed by the Commission, guidelines to improve diversity in the boardroom. Some of the Roadmap’s points include:
- Make board succession a top priority.
- Encourage nominating committees to require that director slates include diverse candidates.
- Partner with CEOs to champion diverse candidates in their pipelines and networks.
For more information or how to get involved with the organization, please visit womencorporatedirectors.com.