January 27, 2021 – Debra L. Lee, the former CEO of BET Networks, and Rabia de Lande Long, an executive coach and management consultant for top companies, have launched a bi-coastal consulting firm, the Monarchs Collective, centered on elevating black executives and women.
“The Monarchs Collective answers the calls for – and clear business value of – diverse leadership, and partners with organizations and executives to make it easier to discover, develop, and promote exceptional black and women executives for boards and leadership roles,” said the firm’s new leaders in a statement. “Frustrated by a perceived lack of qualified candidates who bring diversity but inspired by the great number of extraordinary talent in their networks, the co-founders launched the Monarchs Collective to break old systems and networks. They seek to accelerate efforts to expand leadership pipelines and create measurable and sustainable systems for engaging and retaining diverse talent.”
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A lack of diverse talent has long been a major criticism of companies in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to its simple rectitude, diversity hiring has been found to have a positive impact on revenues, and more companies in recent years have come around to boosting their efforts in this regard. “Changing the complexion of leadership creates incredible value for the company and the community,” said Ms. Lee. “Businesses with diverse boards and leadership teams perform better. We know what it takes to help companies transform from the inside out, and it starts at the top. Companies need a new way to diversify board rooms and leadership — and we have the expertise to accelerate their efforts.”
A Greater Return
“The Monarchs Collective solves challenges for both companies and prospective board members,” added Ms. de Lande Long. “For companies, we help accelerate and amplify the impact of extraordinarily talented black executives and women on boards and in leadership. For executives seeking board seats, we help build their capabilities, confidence and community and match them with opportunities. Companies will also get greater return on their diversity and belonging efforts while also elevating the community.”
Ms. Lee, who is based in Los Angeles, has held a number of board positions over the past two decades. She now serves on the boards of AT&T, Burberry, Marriott, Procter & Gamble and several non-profits. She headed BET for 13 years and is also the founder of Leading Women Defined.
Ms. de Lande Long, who is in New York, consults for Fortune 500 companies. With a focus on business strategy, organizational effectiveness and change management, she is also on the boards of the non-profits Charity Navigator, where she chairs the expert group on DEI/organizational health, and United Hebrew, overseeing the group’s strategic planning committee.
In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, the partners spoke about their new enterprise. “Rabia and I have been friends forever,” said Ms. Lee. “She did a lot of work with me at BET in terms of executive coaching and training my team. After the on-camera murder of George Floyd and the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday in June, we began talking about race issues and the dilemma of companies not being able to find Black board members. It’s something I’ve been hearing for 20 years and it just doesn’t go away. So we formed the Monarchs Collective to change that.”
Becoming More Visible
The Monarchs Collective name, said Ms. de Lande Long, is “ a metaphor for talented people out there who are ready to come out of their cocoons and seek more opportunities. interestingly, a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope.”
Ms. de Lande Long said her goal for the firm is significant change. The firm is determined to “break the system of the same people calling the same people,” she told Billboard. “So we’re looking at it from two different perspectives. One: How do we help the community become more visible? Because we know there are very capable, confident and competent people out there. We want to make them more visible, give them a network community to be part of so we can help them grow in competence and confidence.”
Simultaneously, she said, the firm wants to help make it easier for companies to identify and develop talented diverse candidates. “It’s exciting because people seem to have a hunger for it but they don’t know where to start,” she said. “And we want to start conversations about moving away from just selling one seat at a time to what is your [company’s overall] strategy to truly create the right diverse complexion in the board room and C-suites.”
Ms. Lee told Billboard that their focus is on where the power lies. “The music industry is one of the worst offenders,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking in an industry that’s built on the backs of black music and Black artists. So for there to be no representation at some of these companies is unacceptable. If we’re not addressing all companies on that level, things are never going to change.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media