He's served on 14 boards. Now he wants companies to find other Black candidates
Sara Ashley O’Brien
The CNN Business article, “He's served on 14 boards. Now he wants companies to find other Black candidates," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Charles A. Tribbett, III as he encourages the tech industry to further improve ethnic diversity on boards. The article is excerpted below.
Barry Lawson Williams has a message for companies: Find new Black candidates to serve on your board.
Over the course of several decades, Williams, who ran his own consulting and investment company for many years, has served on 14 public company boards, including prominent institutions such as Sallie Mae, Navient Corporation, and PG&E, where he was the lead director. While on boards, it was not unusual for Williams to be the lone Black member.
In January, he retired from his last for-profit board seat. Soon after, Williams, who has previously worked to collect board diversity data to shed light on the issue, released a new report -- what he calls a Time Capsule Project -- on his personal website. It compiled the experiences of 50 Black board directors -- some of whom, like him, were on the cusp of retiring -- with the goal of informing another generation of "aspiring and new Black directors." Then something surprising happened: Companies started reaching out to him about taking on new board seats, again.
A problem Silicon Valley is struggling to solve
Silicon Valley is known for its love of data and, in this case, the data doesn't lie. According to Black Enterprise's Registry of Corporate Directors, 187 S&P 500 Companies did not have a single Black board member in 2019.
The corporate diversity problem is heightened in tech. The industry, already known for being insider and connection-driven, has notoriously fallen short when it comes to improving diversity at every level, including on boards. (At the moment, while there is some public pressure, there is little regulatory pressure. A California law requires public companies to diversify boards when it comes to female representation, but there's no such requirement for racial diversity.)
"We know that of all public company boards, technology has the fewest number of Blacks on boards than all other industries," said Charles Tribbett, who co-leads the Board and CEO Advisory Group at Russell Reynolds and is the cofounder of the Black Directors Conference, which Williams attends. Tribbett also participated in Williams' research. While that's changing, Tribbett said, "I believe they can move quicker."
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