Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

Too Many Non-Profit Boards Lack Diversity

By: Kenneth Anderson Taylor, Chicago Tribune

 

You may not recognize the name Tarana Burke. She’s the black woman who founded the #MeToo movement a decade ago to support women of color who survive sexual harassment and assault.

 

Although this movement has mostly directed attention to work-related abuses involving white women since it hit critical mass in 2017, it also speaks to me as a black man because of the racial discrimination I personally experienced many years ago as a nonprofit CEO.

 

Today, I blame that predicament on the lack of diversity among the leadership of my nonprofit’s board. Imbalances of power create opportunities for the people who have historically called the shots to abuse their authority — whether that means paying people of color less than whites for the same work or committing the kinds of outrages that the #MeToo movement and its offshoots are now bringing to light.

 

Here’s the big picture: At a time when only 61.3 percent of Americans are white, about 84 percent of nonprofit board members are in that demographic group, along with 90 percent of nonprofit board chairs. When BoardSource, which strives to improve nonprofit management, released this data in 2016, it predicted little progress:

 

“Despite reporting high levels of dissatisfaction with current board demographics — particularly racial and ethnic diversity — boards are not prioritizing demographics in their recruitment practices.”

 

The leadership ranks of nonprofits are, it turns out, a bit more racially and ethnically diverse than their corporate counterparts. Yet I believe nonprofits typically have more of an imperative than private companies to get this right because of their missions.

 

Do-gooders can do better

 

This matters because boards of directors supervise the nation’s nearly 1.6 million nonprofits, providing financial oversight and strategic guidance. In addition, they help with fundraising and hire and manage the group’s top staff. Most board members are volunteers.

 

Nonprofits, such as medical research institutions, houses of worship and shelters for sexual abuse victims, usually fill gaps between what the government and private sector do. A large share of them serve communities with great needs, a population that is disproportionately made up of people of color.

 

Strangely, nonprofit decision-makers seem to either not understand or don’t believe that relying on overly white leadership is at odds with their missions.

 

My own experience illustrates the travails that leaders of color may experience within nonprofits.

 

After spending nine years working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest youth mentoring organization, I was thrilled to move from its national headquarters in Philadelphia for a job as temporary CEO of its Austin, Texas, affiliate.

 

I was even more excited when the board wanted to hire me permanently six months later. But my enthusiasm soon fizzled upon discovering that the same board that unanimously wanted me to lead the organization also collectively decided to pay me thousands of dollars less than my predecessor — a white woman with less experience than me who had approximately the same academic credentials.

 

Attempting to negotiate a more equitable salary with a board that was all white aside from one black man discouraged me further. I was simply told the matter was not up for discussion. After all, the board’s president-elect stated, I “didn’t have to say yes” and it was the first time I would be serving in this capacity — as it had been for the CEO I was replacing.

 

Just imagine dedicating nine years of your life to an organization with the goal of becoming its CEO, having that dream come true and then realizing your hard work had culminated in an offer to be paid far less than the person you were to replace.

 

Though I eventually accepted the board’s offer based on what I believed to be right in terms of my career path, in my heart I knew I was discriminated against in terms of compensation.

 

Old patterns

 

While most nonprofit staff leaders and board members say they are extremely dissatisfied with this gap, they do little to correct it. In fact, they ignore basic and logical remedies.

 

Most do not make diversity a high priority when they recruit new leaders, for example. As James Westphal of the University of Michigan and Edward Zajac of Northwestern University found in 1995, most board members are identified and recruited through informal practices that are rarely rigorous or systematic.

 

This convention hasn’t changed. Unsurprisingly, it yields recruits who resemble older board members.

 

As a result, new and former nonprofit board members are nearly identical in terms of their ethnic and racial backgrounds, even for groups claiming to value diversity. Maybe they do. But they must prove that.

 

I believe that nonprofit leaders can take some basic steps to draw more people of color into their upper ranks.

 

Since the leadership in most nonprofits is drawn from the board and upper management, a simple first step is to acknowledge the job dissatisfaction of employees of color. Ample research, including my own, indicates that they are generally less satisfied than whites.

 

Unsatisfied employees, whether white or people of color, are more likely to move on. This is especially true for nonprofits, whose employees routinely cite low pay when conveying the reasons for their discontent.

 

In addition, board members and top staff can make and communicate clear plans to achieve the goal of leadership diversity. Consistently communicating why it would advance the group’s mission — and is worth the trouble — is key. So is letting employees of color know that their input is highly valued.

 

Airing feedback from employees of color at board meetings helps, as does requiring nonprofit executives to identify, hire and mentor nonwhites for leadership roles.

 

With many nonprofits undergoing leadership successions today, there’s no time to waste.

 

The Conversation

Kenneth Anderson Taylor is an assistant professor at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University.

 

 

 

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FIVE WOMEN OF COLOR WHO SHOULD BE ON YOUR RADAR

Five Women of Color Who Should Be On Your Radar

By: Lauren Wesley Wilson

 

(Forbes) - There is no doubt that 2018 is becoming the “Year of the Woman,” with the celebration of the first anniversary of the Women’s March to the launch of the Times Up Movement and much more to surely come. Our voices are actually being heard loud, clear, and more than ever before. I proclaim that this year will not only become the “Year of the Woman” but the year for women of color.

 

Women of color are making great strides in the workplace, breaking barriers, and becoming C-suite leaders with impact and influence. While there are many women of color who should be on your radar, I’ve narrowed it down to just five for now. These women are dynamic and making changes inside and outside their office. They’re not speaking at every conference or sucking up all the awards at every industry show. They are strategic where they spend their time, how they show up and what they deliver.

 

Get to know these five insightful women:

 

   

 

1. Rose Stuckey Kirk, President of the Verizon Foundation at Verizon

 

Why you should know her: Rose Stuckey Kirk became president of the Verizon Foundation eight years ago, but has been with Verizon since 1998. She is a shining example of how successful you can be despite gender or race. As a woman of color, she has broken the glass ceiling with her C-level position, serving as a chief corporate social responsibility officer. In her role at Verizon, she is able to provide access to new technology and STEM programs to youth who traditionally come from underserved communities. Rose delivers the type of speech that leaves audiences begging for more time and time again. She is poised, deliberate, and entertaining.

 

 

2. Gloria Mayfield Banks

 

Why you should know about her: Gloria is an internationally renowned motivational speaker who leads a successful sales team as the #1 ranked Elite National Sales Director for Mary Kay Cosmetics. Her latest book “Quantum Leaps” outlines the steps to take to excel in your life. Gloria has spoken all over the nation on topics such as women empowerment and instilling leadership goals in girls. Gloria is an electrifying speaker and will keep you focused and holding on to every word. She has overcome domestic violence and dyslexia. Her podcast "Women Do It Better" has Gloria speaking about the gifts we all have and how to find, understand, and master them in order to excel in your personal and professional life. She is a force to be reckon with.

 

RELATEDWHY THE ENTREPRENEURIAL FUTURE IS FEMALE

 

 

3. Susan Jin Davis, Vice President Environmental Affairs, Chief Sustainability Officer, Comcast/NBCUniversal

 

Why you should know her: Hilarious, intelligent, and spot on. Susan Jin Davis knows her worth and the stakeholders she serves. In her time at Comcast, Susan negotiated a historic memorandum of understanding between Comcast and the Asian American community as part of the Company’s merger with NBCUniversal, creating an unheard of commitment in the areas of programming, supplier and employment diversity and community investment. She serves on Comcast’s Internal Diversity Council and is a Company liaison to the Comcast and NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Council. Susan is also an executive sponsor of Asian Pacific Americans at Comcast, a Company Employee Resource Group.

 

 

4. Radhika Jones, Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair

 

Why you should know her: Radhika is not only the first ever Indian American to be Editor in Chief at Vanity Fair, but she is also the first woman of color to ever be Editor in Chief since the publication’s inception in 1913. Radhika Jones is a Harvard University graduate and has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia, where she was also a lecturer. Her position in Vanity Fair has broken new grounds, and will hopefully open the door for other women of color to be in such roles in the near future.

 

 

5. Linda Sarsour, Political Activist and Co-Chair of the Women’s March Movement

 

Why you should know her: As a child of Palestinian immigrants, some of Linda’s early activism entailed defending the civil rights of Muslims living in America. She helped to organize the American Muslim community's response to the Black Lives Matter protests by forming "Muslims for Ferguson." In 2017, the organizers of the Women’s march recruited Sarsour as co-chair of the event. She became co-chair of 2017’s Day Without a Woman, which took place on International Women's Day. She is a loud and strong advocate for women’s rights as well as for underrepresented women of color around the nation.

 

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the founder of ColorCommwhich holds its annual ColorComm Conference for women of color in communications, marketing, & advertising. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

 

 

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WHY THIS VC IS BETTING ON WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, AND LGBTQ FOUNDERS

Why This VC Is Betting on Women, People Of Color, and LGBTQ Founders

 
 
Feb. 7, 2018
 

This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers.

 

Four years ago, Arlan Hamilton was living out of a hotel room that she shared with her mom. At that point, she had given up a career as a live music production coordinator to become a venture capitalist. There were a few problems though: She didn’t have a formal finance background and virtually no connections in Silicon Valley.

 

Her goal? Raise a fund that invests in companies founded by underrepresented entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, LGBTQ company founders, or any combination of the three. She cold-emailed venture investors, explained her strategy, and asked them to back her fund. She eventually managed to raise enough capital to launch Backstage Capital. “[They] saw that I wasn’t just a VC tourist — I was serious,” she says.

 

Hamilton convinced a number of remarkable limited partners to back her fund, including Susan Kimberlin, Marc Andreessen, Chris Sacca, Stewart Butterfield, and Ellen Pao. Since 2015, Backstage has deployed approximately $3 million across more than 60 pre-seed and seed stage startups. The portfolio includes companies such as Thesis Couture, Mars Reel, and Tinsel.

 

Fortune spoke with Hamilton about why she believes a diverse portfolio is good for business.

 

Tell me about your investment thesis. What are some of the key elements you look for in a founder or company before investing?

 

We invest in founders who are women, people of color, and/or LGBT. We felt like a lot of these people and companies were being overlooked, undervalued, and underestimated. With a little bit of leveling the playing field, we believe that these people are equipped to handle an erratic market and the various ups and downs in the startup world.

 

How do you think about dealflow, and what’s your current process of driving it?

 

When I first started, the question I would get from potential LPs over and over again was: Will you have the dealflow for this? How will you find them? We see more than a thousand companies every year. All of them, except for the several that haven’t researched us, are led by underrepresented and underestimated founders.

 

You’ve said previously that you don’t look at investing as “social impact” or a “charity.” Can you elaborate on that?

 

I think that “social impact” and “charity” are two different things. While in the past I’ve said we’re not an impact fund, I’ve actually come around to understand that we are an impact fund, and I’m proud of that. We are an impact fund because of the impact we have, but we are also looking for outsize returns. Those things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

 

Now, I will say that we are not a charity or a non-profit. When you talk to a group of white, affluent male investors and tell them you’re investing in women of color, the first thing that comes out is, “Oh, that’s really nice of you. That’s a great mission.” They immediately correlate us to needing a helping hand. This is not that.

 

What do you think about VC firms forming independent funds to back diverse founders separately from their own firms?

 

Here’s the thing: In an ideal world, they wouldn’t think about it as something separate. But at least, it’s a step forward. I’d rather them do that than completely ignore it. I would be happy to go along to the top 10 funds in the country and help them do that. It’s all about getting the capital access — the politics of it we can talk about another time. You have to start somewhere, so I volunteer to go into any fund and help them start a scout fund that is scouting for diversity. That is not a bad idea, and I applaud the people who are already doing that. They may not have it perfect, but they’re attempting it, and that’s a good start.

 

On average, women founders receive less than 3% of total VC dollars and women of color receive only 0.2%. What needs to happen for these stats to change?

 

A few things: One, more and more angels of color and women angels need to step up and meet founders early in their journey. There’s power in numbers. Two, some of these companies need to have more support at the post-seed level. There’s a lot that has been done at the pre-seed and seed level, but then there’s nowhere for them to go after that. I think larger investors think we’ve taken care of it because there’s a black woman writing a check. That’s not enough. We just can’t do it alone. The larger investors need to step up.

 

You support founders in the early stage, but what do you advise them to do as their company grows and they need further capital?

 

I struggle with that question because I’ve seen so much. I want to tell them that this is a meritocracy and that as long as you keep hitting your KPIs, you’ll be met with a Series A investor and you’ll be part of that percentage that makes it to the next level. But the reality is that the best and brightest and most deserving — even with the numbers, even with the traction — are being shut out. So I don’t know the answer to that until the larger investors really take this seriously and put money behind it.

 

How can the industry get more funding to female founders & more women partners in VC firms?

 

Over the next 18 months, there will be two or three major exits that are just too hard to ignore that will come from women or come from people of color. They will be profound exits that shock the system. Once that happens, a lot of investors will take note, and I believe that will happen by the middle of 2019. I also think that there needs to be a group of LPs who demand that their fund managers are looking at diversity and are actively looking at leveling the playing field.

 

What are some interesting industry trends in tech right now you think Term Sheet readers should be paying attention to?

 

I actually don’t pay much attention to industry trends in tech, to be quite honest. I just spend a lot of time hyperfocused on what we’re doing. I will say that the more I learn about blockchain, the more excited I get about it. It could potentially level the playing field.

 

Do you think cryptocurrency and the blockchain has the power to disrupt venture capital as it stands today?

 

Yes — it has the power to turn it upside down. The people who aren’t figuring out that Silicon Valley doesn’t represent the United States are the same people who laugh and scoff at cryptocurrency. You may laugh at the silliness of the scams but the root of what’s happening is that the world has figured out a different way to communicate and trade with each other. It’s like a new language, and if you aren’t able to read and write in that language over the next couple of years, you’ll be left in the dust.

 

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

 

Go home. Take the day off. Stop working. I’m a big proponent of self-care, and I’ll never stop talking about it. If self-care isn’t part of your daily and business routine, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about recognizing how valuable you are, and you can’t run a company if you’re not able to take care of yourself first.