Since its launch in 2019, the Leavey School of Business Silicon Valley Executive Center mentoring and training program to help Black executives become members of corporate boards has had a waitlist. The Black Corporate Board Readiness program was founded in 2019 with criteria for who could participate—business leaders with senior leadership experience, including c-suite leaders or general managers. Now in its sixth cohort, the program has graduated 250 people. “It is clear the talent and experience is out there,” says Dennis Lanham, executive director of the executive center.
That experience should be in demand; research shows that companies with more diverse corporate governance boards have measurably better outcomes. But still, 37% of S&P 500 companies didn’t have a Black board member in 2019. It’s a gap the program hopes to fill in part by building a network of Black executives and board members who can help others land board placements. The program includes corporate governance education and mentorships, as well as professional networking opportunities so that its alumni start on boards ready to contribute to business success. The community around the program was a huge selling point to Steve Robertson ’90. As a corporate CFO who has served on nonprofit boards, Robertson has a lot to offer as a potential corporate member. “Board placement is often about who you know and the connections that you have,” he says. “This has been an opportunity to accelerate that.”