Black Boardroom Initiative launched with support from Seattle Technology to boost board diversity

Perkins Coie partners James Williams (left) and Stewart Landefeld co-lead the Black Boardroom Initiative. (Photos Perkins Coie)

Perkins Coie is launch an effort called The black meeting room initiative increase the diversity of the S&P 500 boards of directors by training cohorts of potential candidates. Its goal is to increase the number of black leaders in public councils to one in eight by 2028 – a ratio which corresponds to the fraction of the American black population. Right now, black members of the board are about one in 24.

The initiative led by Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based international law firm, initially focused on Washington state with plans to expand to other major cities. It is supported by Deloitte and its sponsors are Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow Group, F5, Starbucks and RealNetworks.

The free training lasts six months and the inaugural group has 23 members. The program seeks out what it calls “board-ready” black executives for whom it will provide training on corporate governance issues and facilitate networking and mentoring. Companies with vacant board positions are encouraged to share them with The Black Boardroom Initiative.

“A public company with a more diverse board of directors has many advantages, including a diversity of opinion, stronger corporate governance and the encouragement of diversity throughout the organization,” said James williams, co-leader of the initiative and managing partner of Perkins Coie’s Seattle office, in a statement. “Participating Black Executives will benefit from targeted and substantive training and networking opportunities, as well as mentorship and an opportunity to benefit from the shared experience of a leading group of Black Executive Program Advisors. . “

Adriane Brown, managing partner of Seattle-based venture capital firm Flying Fish, told GeekWire that the worn-out excuse that a company “can’t find” qualified Black board members isn’t acceptable.

“The Black Boardroom Initiative aims to bring fairness to this coveted space. It’s not about talent, it’s abundant. It’s about breaking down the barrier to access and harnessing a multitude of resources that match what boards need to drive business performance, ”said Brown, who is an outside advisor for effort and herself a board member of American Airlines, Axon and eBay.

Adriane Brown, Managing Partner at Flying Fish and member of the board of directors of American Airlines, Axon and eBay. (Photo Axone)

The lack of diversity on boards has long been viewed as a significant injustice that needed more attention. The murder of George Floyd a year ago has been a great motivation to carry out this effort, said Perkins Coie spokesman Justin Cole. Seattle weather.

The launch of the Black Boardroom Initiative follows the creation of Women boarding, a similar Seattle-based program started in 2014 to increase the number of women on public boards. OnBoarding Women alumni now have 58 appointments to the board of directors of public and private companies to date.

In seven years, the percentage of women on Washington boards has increased from 14% to 25%, according to Perkins Coie, who also helped lead the effort. Other sponsors of OnBoarding Women are Deloitte, Madrona Venture Group, Cascadia Capital and Spencer Stewart.

Based in california the council list is another effort to increase board diversity by promoting suitable candidates. The program initially focused on women leaders when it started in 2015 and has expanded to include other under-represented groups.

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