On Monday, Out Leadership and Gaingels hosted a discussion demystifying corporate boards and explaining the importance of diversity on the highest level of board directorship.
Hosted by David Beatty, Co-Founder of the LGBT+ focused venture capital firm Gaingels and Fabrice Houdart, Director of Global Equality Initiatives at Out Leadership, the quorum event was moderated by Susan Angele, Senior Advisor on Board Governance for KPMG.
Matt Fust. QUORUM Senior Advisor for Out Leadership and a board member of several life science companies, delved into the landscape of corporate began by giving a broad overview of the venture-based board landscape, showing the trending decline of the number of public boards over the last 40 years.
After this overview, Linda Akutagawa, CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics and Chair of the Alliance for Board Diversity discussed how there was some progress in diversifying boards, but that this progress is slow-going at the expense of the companies themselves. Linda outlined four major levers of why diversity is so essential in board and executive team roles:
Catherine Rhee of Legendary Ventures, shifted the conversation by discussing how essential a diverse set of specialties and backgrounds was at her firm, emphasizing how important it was to be able to operate efficiently.
The conversation then shifted to explaining what the role of the board for venture-backed companies actually entailed. Charlie Newark-French, Chairman and COO of Hyperscience, added that your background is a key marker to consider when deciding if a board is right for you Colin Walsh, CEO of Varo Digital, discussed how a potential board member has to be aligned with the purpose and mission of the company to be effective. If a potential board member is joining for the wrong reasons, they won’t be an effective member of the team.
Matt Hust emphasized the importance of networks in finding talent, and in how essential groups like Quorum are for ensuring that there are databases of diverse talent that can be easily discovered when searching for board leadership. Linda echoed this, reminding everyone that finding someone who fits the culture of the board is necessary, but “if your networks are all just like you, you are not going to build a diverse board.”
The panel ended with David Beatty urging people who want to be involved with board leadership to pursue it regardless of whether or not someone has told you that you can, because it will give you valuable experience for future pursuits.