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October 09, 2020

Doing, the Hard Part: Building Momentum for Diversity at the Top

Diligent’s Modern Leadership initiative expands to help ensure that calls and pledges for greater diversity and inclusion in boardrooms and c-suite materialize in real, lasting impact.

“What happens when the protesters go home – will the calls for systemic change simply fade away and will the status quo hold, or will the hard work needed to enact real change be carried out?”

In one form or another that is a question I am hearing more and more these days.

It is easy to be cynical and resigned that the status quo will prevail. That as soon as the pressure is off, as soon as the streets empty, as soon as the news cycle moves on, inertia will carry the day. That even the best of intentions won’t result in real change.

But I am not one for cynicism or resignation.

Instead, I use the disquieting idea that this moment will fall short to push onward and keep building the tools and networks that will help create a positive impact.

As I have written before, earlier this year, at Diligent, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and amidst a crescendo of calls for social justice, we set out to leverage our governance platform to tackle the lack of diversity in corporate boardrooms and senior leadership through our Modern Leadership initiative.

At Diligent our good fortune of working with more than 19,000 organizations and nearly 700,000 board members and executives around the world means we have a unique place from which to help drive change .. to help break up the past patterns and practices that stand in the way of boardroom and c-suite diversity and inclusion.

This week, we are continuing our effort to leverage that good fortune, expanding Modern Leadership and building on its initial momentum that has already lifted up nearly 100 open roles and more than 500 diverse, board-ready candidates since the initiative launched in June. Those roles and candidates – and the ones we will be adding over time – are found within Diligent Director Network, a database of diverse leadership talent that is searchable, free of charge, within Diligent’s platform.

This expansion features an unprecedented partnership with the most respected names in search – Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles, and Egon Zehnder, among others – to improve the transparency around open board roles.

We are also doubling the number of private equity firms partnering to drive diversity and inclusion from 10 to 21, with each committed to creating five new board roles for diverse individuals. Our newest private equity partners include: TPG, Francisco Partners, ICV Partners, GI Partners, New Mountain Capital, The Jordan Company, The Riverside Company, Palladium Equity Partners, Argand Partners, Sumeru Equity Partners and Blue Point Capital Partners.

Coupled with our initial partners – Insight Partners, Clearlake Capital, Vista Equity Partners, Hellman & Friedman, Hg, Genstar Capital, TA Associates, Grain Management, K1 Investment Management, and Aurora Capital Partners – our expanded network of private equity partners allows us to realize rapid change in boardrooms across various sectors.

“New Mountain Capital is proud to partner with Diligent as part of the Modern Leadership Initiative. We are highly committed to continuing to increase the diversity of talent at our portfolio company boards through this effort.” – Adam Weinstein, Head of Firm Operations and CFO of New Mountain Capital 

The Modern Leadership expansion also includes 10 new corporate diversity organizations – including Athena Alliance, BlackNorth, Sigma Pi Phi’s Blacks on Corporate Boards Committee, and The Toigo Foundation – to ensure their board-ready members become visible to decision makers in boardrooms around the globe.

“Athena is honored to be included in this important initiative. Getting more diverse leaders into the boardroom is not just a boardroom challenge but an imperative – and a benefit – for all of society. Athena is committed to championing our diverse members to the highest ranks.”  – Coco Brown, founder and CEO of Athena Alliance, the global, digital community for the top women in business

The first job posting in the Diligent Director Network was from Diligent itself, and we are still seeking to add an additional independent director, ideally with a racially diverse background. Please share with your network and encouraged qualified candidates to apply within the application.

Finally, Modern Leadership is only a part of what we are doing at Diligent to move the needle on diversity and inclusion and making sure we don’t fall short of meeting the moment. This Fall we are proudly partnering with NYSE and its Board Diversity Council to accelerate boardroom diversity among its listed companies. And just yesterday Diligent and Ascend Pinnacle hosted the Diverse Women on Boards Forum that I participated in alongside Phyllis Campbell, Pacific Northwest chair of JPMorgan, Mellody Hobson, the co-CEO of Ariel Investments and many other visionary leaders.

Stay tuned for more development from those partnerships…

Brian Stafford
CEO at Diligent