IN THE SEAT OF POWER — Black Executives Reveal What It Takes to Secure a Seat on Corporate Boards

Black executives made record gains in 2021 in securing seats on corporate boards, but there is still much work to be done.

During the 2022 BLACK ENTERPRISE Women of Power Summit in Las Vegas, March 24-26, Edith Cooper, member of Board of Directors Pepsi Co, Amazon & EQT and Co-Founder, Medley, a membership-based community for personal and professional growth and Gale V. King, Corporate Director and former Executive Vice-President Chief Administrative Officer Nationwide, shared how they made it to the boardroom and how they’re changing the corporate landscape from the top.

During the session, The Seat of Power – Getting on Corporate Boards, Cooper talked candidly about how her personal North Star helped her achieve so many of her accomplishments.

The conversation opened with a burning question many women in the Bellagio conference room likely wanted to know: how do they do an assessment of when they’re ready to join board? And when they are, what value proposition should they be bringing to a board?

“You have to understand what it means to be on board,” Cooper said.

The PepsiCo board member explained, “It goes well beyond getting to put it on your LinkedIn page, or, you know, the incremental access that you have, you know, governance responsibility for the shareholders of a company,” Cooper said.

Cooper fervently offered the captive audience of 1,200 women this sage advice about their pursuit of securing a corporate board seat: “Think about what you have as your priorities right now. And what capacity do you have to commit to understanding the underlying to these efforts…and that current commitment is doing the due diligence on what points you want to be on because you get to decide, right?” King asserted.

Being on a corporate board is more than flash, fanfare and a resume filler.

“We don’t get to decide ultimately who we want to engage with at the board level,” Cooper added.

“And that’s really important… I don’t know how many meetings your boards have five, six a year. By committing to a target, you have to manage and understand material. And so when you start thinking, or do the homework, understand whether you have time to really commit to make sure that the organizations that are approaching you, or once it’s really interested in, think about the organizations, and the companies or industries that you’d like to be involved in, and get really underscoring the culture of those organizations,” Cooper said.

Check out more of the candid conversation above.