Research shows that more diverse teams perform better and are more innovative than homogeneous teams. I’ve written about this before, and it’s covered extensively in my book Startup Boards: A Field Guide to Building and Leading an Effective Board of Directors.
We’ve made this an operating principle at Foundry. We encourage all our portfolio companies to add multiple independent directors and build diverse boards. I believe that boards with too many investors, without operator voices, are not what an early-stage or growth company needs. I’ve been willing to give up my board seat to make room for an independent director (for example, at Bolster.)
A few years ago, I attended a dinner I was invited to in Aspen hosted by Him for Her. I generally dislike these events but walked away impressed. The conversation was exciting and powerful, and I realized it extended my network with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Since that meeting, I’ve become a regular host and supporter of Him For Her, a non-profit organization that aims to accelerate board diversity. Over the next decade, they have a bold goal of dramatically increasing board diversity.
Their approach is simple: they host executive roundtables across the country (remote and in-person) and build curated referrals for board openings for free.
It works. We’ve received referrals for many companies and seated over a dozen new female board members.
I’m proud to support an organization that recently celebrated 100 board placements. Him for Her celebrated this milestone by ringing the bell at Nasdaq. 50% are first-time directors, 40% are women of color, 53% are full-time executives, and 10% are first-generation college graduates. They come from 25 different U.S. metropolitan areas. In addition, 28% of the board placements are for public companies, with the rest being private companies, although eight of those companies have gone public.
While leaving independent board seats empty or choosing someone you know is easy, this is risky. Diversity of experience and thought, along with an independent vs. investor perspective, is something every CEO can use, especially in this market environment.