RRA & World 50 Group To Help Accelerate Board Diversity With Third Cohort of “Next Generation Director” Development Program

Board and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion AdvisoryBoard EffectivenessBoard Director and Chair Search
Article Icon Press Release
October 11, 2023
2 min read
Board and CEO AdvisoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion AdvisoryBoard EffectivenessBoard Director and Chair Search
Executive Summary
Fortune 500 board members lead transformational program aimed at bolstering diverse executives’ journeys to corporate boards.


October 11, 2023 – Global leadership advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) and World 50 Group—the global community of business leaders from the most respected and influential companies—announced today the launch of the third cohort of Next Generation Director, a transformative 12-month development program for racially and ethnically diverse executives. Next Generation Director is designed to accelerate participants’ journeys toward corporate board service, while further developing their leadership capabilities.

Research from RRA revealed that while many companies are committed to promoting diversity, executives from underrepresented racial backgrounds still hold fewer than 25% of S&P 500 board seats. The Next Generation Director program addresses the unique challenges and barriers faced by diverse executives head-on by partnering with Fortune 500 directors to provide tailored mentorship and unparalleled insights into the world of corporate governance.

“Next Generation Director goes beyond board service preparation; it builds community through one-to-one mentoring, real-world storytelling, and personally tailored workshops that empower participants with the confidence to pursue and succeed on the right board,” said Jennifer Bird Newton, World 50's chief impact officer. “World 50 is dedicated to accelerating diversity in leadership, and the launch of our latest cohort is a testament to the impact our program has made in preparing the next generation of diverse talent.”

Rusty O’Kelley—co-leader of Russell Reynolds Associates’ Americas board and CEO practice—added, “The first two cohorts of the Next Generation Director program have been a tremendous success, and we are excited to be launching the third cohort next year. Next Generation Director participants are remarkably accomplished senior executives, and it has been incredibly gratifying to see participants from earlier cohorts taking their first board seats. Programs like these are essential to building more diverse pipelines for corporate boardrooms.”

Launched in early 2022, Next Generation Director combines RRA’s expertise in board search and board effectiveness with World 50’s proven success in running top-tier executive development programs and peer communities. The program is defined by its exceptional advisory board: a group of world-renowned directors on the boards of top global corporations—including Ally, Alphabet, Apple, Boeing, Corning, Dow, Honeywell, HP, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Meta, Merck, Salesforce, Starbucks, Uber, and others—as well as leading-edge governance experts. By offering practical, ongoing perspectives from their front-line board service, advisory board members serve as faculty and mentors to participants, as well as core partners in shaping the program’s content and curriculum to reflect the needs of today’s evolving boardroom environment.

Next Generation Director advisory board members include:

  • Aida Álvarez, Former Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration
  • Kenneth Bacon, Former Executive Vice President, Fannie Mae
  • Gaurdie Banister Jr., Former President and CEO, Aera Energy
  • Les Brun, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Ariel Alternatives
  • Lisa Chang, Global Chief People Officer, The Coca‑Cola Company
  • Willie Deese, Former Executive Vice President, Merck
  • Beth Ford, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes
  • Margaret Keane, Former Executive Chair and CEO, Synchrony Financial
  • Marjorie Lao, Former Chief Financial Officer, LEGO Group
  • Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, Former CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Sabastian Niles, President and Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce
  • Rusty O’Kelley, Managing Director and Co-Leader, Board and CEO Advisory Practice, Russell Reynolds Associates
  • Myrna Soto, Founder and CEO, Apogee Executive Advisors
  • Ron Sugar, Former Chairman and CEO, Northrop Grumman
  • Tracey Travis, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Estée Lauder
  • Lisa Wardell, Former Chairman and CEO, Adtalem Global Education
  • Robin Washington, Former Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Gilead Sciences
  • Mark Weinberger, Former Chairman and CEO, EY
  • Ron Williams, Former Chairman and CEO, Aetna

Les Brun—chairman and CEO of Ariel Alternatives and director at Broadridge Financial and Corning—said, “As the need for younger and actively engaged diverse directors grows, it’s a privilege to share my boardroom experience with talented, eager, and extraordinarily qualified candidates of color. Next Generation Director demystifies navigating the boardroom and supports emerging directors in selecting, preparing, and interviewing for these exciting board leadership opportunities.”

“I am thrilled to share my experiences and best practices with prospective board leaders through Next Generation Director,” added Lisa Wardell, former chairman and CEO of Adtalem Global Education and director at American Express. “Mentoring emerging diverse leaders and supporting their preparation for board service has been even more impactful than my individual contributions to boards. This program provides authentic, comprehensive strategies and tactics to board candidates, and I’m proud to be a small part of that legacy.”

In addition to building and supporting several programs dedicated to improving representation in the C-suite and boardrooms, RRA runs the annual Black Corporate Directors Conference and Hispanic Directors Conference.

Next Generation Director’s third cohort also comes on the heels of World 50’s third annual Inclusion & Diversity Impact Report—a comprehensive source for insight into the current state of DEI efforts in the business world—as well as World 50’s upcoming 2024 I&D Impact Awards, which recognizes and celebrates outstanding organizations, leaders, and teams that are pioneering systemic and scalable solutions for achieving greater equity in the workplace.

Those interested in nominating a team member or themselves for participation in Next Generation Director may contact nextplatform@world50.com for more details.

About Russell Reynolds Associates

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory firm. Our 600+ consultants in 47 offices work with public, private, and nonprofit organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic, sustainability, and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture, and effectiveness to identifying, assessing and defining the best leadership for organizations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.


About World 50 Group

Leaders of the world’s most respected companies join World 50 to learn from one another. More than 4,800 global CEOs, board directors, and senior executives across every function—from 37 countries across six continents—trust the World 50 community for insights that deliver impact at scale.

World 50 is the safe space to exchange ideas, navigate complex challenges, and evolve as a leader. Members are at the forefront of transformation, leading organizations with a total market cap exceeding US$34 trillion and more than 37 million employees worldwide.

To learn more about membership and request an invitation, visit world50.com.



Paige Montgomery

Marketing Leader, Americas


For World 50

Raquel Cona

KCSA Strategic Communications