For more than a decade, the Black Corporate Directors Conference has pushed to create effective and activist board members while serving as an enduring power network. Founders John Rogers and Mellody Hobson, CEO and president, respectively, of BE 100s asset manager Ariel Investments, and Charles Tribbett III, a senior partner with executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, have used their organization as a tool to design boards that create shareholder value through the highest standards of corporate governance and inclusive membership.
The trio believes their mandate will set the stage for the development of more innovative, competitive companies in the global environment. Rogers, a corporate director for McDonald’s Corp. and Exelon who uses as one of his guides a copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” that he has kept tucked in his wallet, often asserts: “I’m going to help with the diversity initiatives of the corporate boards I’m on because it is not only the morally right thing to do, but it is also going to enhance the success of the business.”
In this exclusive interview with Editor-In-Chief Derek T. Dingle, Rogers and Tribbett shared the ongoing mission of the BCDC and how black board participation helps drive the advancement of global business by recruiting new brand of leadership talent to corporate America.
Black Enterprise: Share with our audience how black board representation significantly expands opportunities for all. Are we realizing the impact of black on boards?
Charles Tribbett III: When blacks go on boards, they are part of the CEO succession planning. [You have someone to fight] for candidates that can be elevated to the president role or presidents of divisions where African Americans are now running two, three, five billion-dollar P&Ls for a company. Even if they don’t get the CEO job, they get recruited to become candidates for CEO opportunities elsewhere.
The more you have on the board, the greater odds diversity occurs at the company across the board … the better opportunities we have for diversity to be given in donations for foundations or not-for-profit organizations … the better chance we have on African Americans that are in the treasurer’s job, and for these [corporations] will begin to give business to a more diverse group of financial services firms. All of that trickles down by simply having African Americans on board. There’s a tremendous effect on the corporate board, which filters all the way to the company, and ultimately affecting America and blacks.
We have seen some African American board members become a part of the consideration set and, in some cases, gain CEO slots. Do you think we are going to see more of that activity in the future?
John Rogers: Once we are there and people see us, alongside white directors, more often than not I see African American directors move into these leadership roles. People say, “Hey, these guys are pretty good here. Actually they are really the best, we are going to make them chairman of the whole company or CEO.” It shows how talented our folks are. We just need an opportunity to get in the room.
Check out more on the Black Corporate Directors Conference and other efforts to diversify boards on the next page …