February 6, 2020 – At a time when women continue to make slow progress in winning seats in the boardroom, Chicago-based Hanold Associates has made a powerful statement by recruiting eight women to serve in directorships at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a non-profit advocacy organization.
Among the women: Nelda Connors, Kim Davis, Thasunda Brown Duckett, Cara Kennedy-Cuomo, Betty Liu, Sushma Raman, Maryann Turcke and Randi Weingarten. Jason Hanold and Sandra Peña led the assignment.
“Prior to this search, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights board was composed of 80 percent men, so they were focused with purpose and discipline on enhancing the diversity of the board,” said Mr. Hanold. The organization noted that the new board members bring to Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights a diversity of strengths and a common commitment to human rights, social justice and the belief that every person can make a difference.
“Diverse perspectives that are informed by dimensionally diverse backgrounds fuels smarter, more productive and more successful boards, teams and organizations,” said Mr. Hanold. “For those who share a growth-mindset, richly diverse boards and teams are simply more interesting.” And that, he said, “drives greater board member engagement and retention. The more diverse tends to directly correlate to the spirit of inclusivity that follows, and the organization and its respective stakeholder benefit. This is true for all organizations whether not-for-profit or for-profit.”
The search for these new directors moved at an accelerated rate. “We backed into formal board vote/elections on the morning of Dec. 13,” Mr. Hanold said. “I believe we started in late September/early October, so from start to finish this took us about two and a half months to complete.” Kerry Kennedy, president of the organization, was instrumental in driving the process with John Rogers (who serves as CEO of Ariel Investments and is a Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights trustee) and Robert Smith (who serves as CEO of Vista Equity Partners and is chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights board).
“Expanding our board is an important step forward for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, allowing us to deepen our commitment to the vital work my father started more than 50 years ago,” said Ms. Kennedy. “The insight and leadership of these outstanding women will be invaluable in our fight for a more just and peaceful world.”
“We’re delighted to announce our latest board members, accomplished leaders who recognize the need for social justice and are bold enough to partner with us on the front lines,” said Mr. Smith.
New Women Directors
The board of directors’ composition encompasses leaders from varied sectors, including those in corporate, human rights, entertainment and the public sector. Members are identified and selected based on their demonstrated interest and commitment to social justice and advancing the legacy and vision of Robert F. Kennedy.
Independent Directors, Women and Minorities See Board Gains
Heeding the calls of stakeholders, S&P 500 boards are accelerating the addition of diverse directors, according to the latest Spencer Stuart U.S. Board Index. A record-breaking 59 percent of new independent directors hired were women or minority men. Let’s take a closer look at the findings.
Ms. Connors is founder and CEO of Pine Grove Holdings, an investment firm that has overseen transactions representing over $300 million. She has more than 25 years of technical and operating experience, primarily in the automotive and diversified industrials markets, having held high-level positions at Atkore International, Eaton Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler Corp. Her recognized expertise and sought-after strategic counsel have led to her inclusion on the public boards of directors of Boston Scientific, Delphi Technologies, Echo Global Logistics and EnerSys.
Ms. Davis is an executive vice president for the NHL, responsible for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs. Reporting to commissioner Gary Bettman, she exerts a positive influence over 32 NHL clubs’ owners and executives regarding decisions relating to culture, youth participation and social impact in an effort to improve access to and availability of the sport as well as grow the league’s business for the long term. Ms. Davis is considered a trailblazer and change agent who has positively disrupted the financial industry and the world of sports during her 30-plus-year career.
Ms. Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase, is widely recognized as a leading executive in the financial industry. Building on her passion for financial inclusion and empowerment, she drives the bank’s development of new tools, products, and thought leadership to build financial health and wealth for consumers. She is executive sponsor of JPMorgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways program and Fellowship Initiative, as well as a founding member of Women on the Move, which all offer women and people of color opportunities for mentorship and advancement in their personal lives and professional careers.
Ms. Kennedy-Cuomo is an associate at 17 Asset Management, a global firm that designs and manages investments. She is also a partner at Sahar Global Summits, where she leads the group’s diversity and inclusion division. Ms. Kennedy-Cuomo has also worked for Jeffrey Sachs on international development efforts, for which she lived in Rwanda, Malaysia and Colombia. With Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, she has joined delegations fighting for LGBTQ rights in Uganda, environmental rights in Ecuador, and protesting the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Ms. Liu is the chief experience officer at Intercontinental Exchange and executive vice chairman for NYSE Group. In both roles, she enhances and innovates the customer experience across the entire organization and helps elevate relationships with the C-suite of the exchange’s thousands of business partners. Prior to joining the NYSE in 2018, Ms. Liu was an award-winning business journalist, anchoring “Daybreak Asia” and “In the Loop” for Bloomberg Television.
Ms. Raman is executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, brings a rich and diverse background in philanthropy, human rights and social justice through her work in the U.S. and globally with the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, as well as her experience leading human rights programs, philanthropic collaboratives and social justice foundations. Ms. Raman has served as a judge for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights international human rights award and has taught graduate public policy courses on global civil society, the state and the NGO sector; intersectoral leadership; and non-profit policy and management at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Ms. Turcke is COO of the NFL, overseeing all facets of the operation including marketing, technology, social and digital media assets, brand, global events and corporate functions including human resources, and public and government affairs. Prior to the NFL, she was president of Bell Media, Canada’s premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio, out-of-home advertising and digital media, where she leveraged Bell Media properties and brands across all platforms to support its strong position in the competitive advertising marketplace. Ms. Turcke also serves on the boards of the Royal Bank of Canada and is an active community member of Queen’s University, serving as chair of its Smith School of Business Advisory Board and in contributing to the leadership of the capital campaign for its Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.
Tackling Gender Imbalance between Boards and Executive Teams
Much has been written about gender diversity in the boardrooms of the world’s largest companies. But all of the focus on boards tends to detract from a much bigger issue – the troubling state of gender balance in top leadership teams. Board diversity is celebrated in annual reports and, for many companies, achieving a 40 percent female ratio on a main board is now viewed as a “healthy balance.”
Recent analysis of this year’s Fortune 100 by Armstrong Craven shows that only 25 percent of the overall leadership population is female and only nine percent of commercial and business roles are held by women.
Ms. Weingarten is president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, an organization that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, families and communities. Ms. Weingarten has launched major efforts to place real education reform and community engagement high on the nation’s and her union’s agendas, creating the AFT Innovation Fund to support sustainable, innovative and collaborative education reform projects.
Continuing to Drive Results
“Kerry Kennedy and the leaders involved with Robert F Kennedy Human Rights are so focused and involved in the field in the fight against social injustice and elevating human rights, both domestically and globally, that it distracts from the mission in thinking about board recruiting beyond their existing networks,” said Mr. Hanold. “Most organizations face the same issue. In examining the board composition that consists of some of the best leaders, philanthropists and contributors in our country, Kerry, along with board members recognized that the experience, industry and gender composition has grown unbalanced.”
“We offered to help, not just for one election cycle, but for the next few cycles, the restore the ideal diversity of the board composition by ethnicity, gender, industry and geography,” he said. “It simply makes for a more inclusive, better performing board.
“We will continue our work in helping to enhance their board over the coming year, and we are finding a significant level of interest in the mission, by incredibly talented and ‘in-demand’ executives,” Mr. Hanold said.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, it advocates for key human rights issues, pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world.
Hanold Associates is a retained boutique executive search firm focused on HR and diversity and inclusion officers. Its client list is diverse across industries, geographies and business scenarios, and culture is at the core of everything the firm does. Their clients include the National Football League, Domino’s Pizza, Under Armour, Patagonia, Gucci, Kohler, REI, Live Nation Entertainment, Major League Baseball, Kellogg, Apollo, Blackstone, TPG, L Catterton, Northwestern University, Electronic Arts, Fiat-Chrysler, Kohler, SC Johnson, eBay, Great Place To Work, Fossil, Vail Resorts, Edward Jones, AbbVie, Carnival Corp., Google, Biogen, Allstate, Bridgestone, Wikimedia, CNA Insurance, Cummins, Tyson, ClubCorp, CDW and Nike, among others.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media