Boardroom Diversity: What's the Value of Black Corporate Directors?

[EXCLUSIVE] John Rogers & Charles Tribbett Talk the Value of Black Corporate Directors

Charles Tribbett, John Rogers (Images: File)

What has been the BCDC’s progress regarding its initiatives to increase the number of black board members on a regional basis?

John Rogers: My understanding is that the group that meets out west has been very aggressive and forceful at pushing giant tech companies out there to have their Jackie Robinson moment, and to go to the Facebooks, the Apples, the major main names, I think is so important. The Texas group has this idea of [getting] the private equity world to open up to certain people of color and companies that they take private. This year’s conference, we will have David Rubenstein coming in from the Carlyle Group talking about how we encourage these giant institutions that are controlling so much of corporate America and pick the people to put on the board.

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Charles Tribbett: Thanks to work that BLACK ENTERPRISE has done as well as others that really help them narrow down which companies don’t have African Americans on their boards, they are now reaching out to CEOs and heads of nominating committees. They can personally call that person and talk to them about when you have a slot coming up, you should think about diversity.

So will it take more shareholder activism in the form of Jesse Jackson’s Silicon Valley campaign to further increase the numbers? Is that a role that African American investors and the investment community can play in terms of pushing for a greater board diversity and overall inclusion?

Tribbett: I believe Jesse Jackson has done historical things that have helped blacks get on corporate boards, and create diversity in companies. I think that those that follow him can clearly learn from what he’s done, and he’s done it successfully. It’s not the only way. I think that we have to look at multiple ways in which we can create diversity at companies, at the board level, and have companies give business to blacks.

Search … there’s another way. About 40%, 50% of how blacks go on board is through word of mouth. Networking is another way. I think your readers have to look at what position they’re in [relative to] their company or their job, and how can they make a difference through investment to facilitate getting more blacks on board.

Rogers: All of us have to be on message. Just imagine if the NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network, and Rainbow Push all agreed that the No. 1 issue facing our futures for this year was making sure the major corporation of the world have true diversity in their C-suite and their board level positions. [If] congressional and electoral leaders, the faith based community, and business leaders, all were on message of how important that was. Once you get people in the board suites and C-suite jobs and they have the right attitude, it will transform our communities.