On Monday, Out Leadership and Gaingels hosted a discussion on the importance of diversity on venture-backed boards, and the difficulties of being a board member in the venture space.
Hosted by David Beatty, Co-Founder of the LGBT+ focused venture capital firm Gaingels and Fabrice Houdart, Managing Director of Global Equality Initiatives at Out Leadership, the quorum event featured panelists 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, Stephanie Newby, COO of Weights & Biases who work in A.I., Jo Schneier, member of the board of the medicare-based Trusty Care, Patrick Chung, member of the board of the early-seed focused X-Fund and Lamar Campbell, founder of League Ventures and former NFL player..
Fabrice Houdart introduced the topic by giving an overview of issues of diversity on corporate boards, sharing that 80% of board members are white, and fewer than 20 openly LGBTQ directors serving on the boards of Fortune 500 companies. Matt Hurst then delved into the landscape of corporate board leadership, noting that the number of publicly traded companies have actually trended down over the last 40 years but also acknowledging that outside of the Fortune 500 boards there are thousands of more accessible boards.
Jo Schneier began by recounting his experience of searching for an independent board member, sharing how difficult the process could be but also how important it is to find a quality board member. Stephanie Newby followed by explaining some of the key differences between joining a board at its initial stages and then moving towards IPO, especially pointing out the need for more independent members in the move towards public.
The conversation then shifted to some important things to consider when looking to join a new board. Patrick Chung discussed how the single most important aspect of joining a board is the people involved; the company or product might change, but the people themselves become the most important part. At the same time, Chung acknowledges that the role of the board is not to uphold the CEO at all costs, but rather the company itself. Susan Angele talked about the difficulties in making the transition from management to board membership because of how challenging it can be to distinguish between having concerns because of the company or concerns because the company is operating in a different way than you want it to.
Lamar Cambell, former NFL player and founder of League Ventures, joined the call to discuss his own personal journey with investing. He discussed his journey into the investing world, and how he has been working to educate more NFL players on the venture capital world. Campbell emphasized how important it was to look for diversity on boards, of educational, racial, sexual identity, and backgrounds.
The discussion ended with Matt Hust detailing further resources for new board members, pointing towards Quorum as a valuable resource for those looking to enter the corporate board landscape.