Thank you Mel Lagomasino and Jill Kanin-Lovers and the selection committee for all of your excellent work, over months, to choose tonight’s winners -- and for your leadership of this Visionary Awards tribute. Mel, thank you for chairing for two years and I'm thrilled to announce our new co-chair for 2018 and 2019, a veteran committee member Joan Steele. I'd like to thank our always fantastic host Deborah Norville and our hardworking event chair, Pam Reeve. To make a nomination for 2018, please visit the WCD website and go to the Visionary Awards Nomination form. Nominations are open until July 15, 2017.
Thanks to KPMG for their support over the years especially Kapila Anand and Nancy Calderon – the directors of the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation.
I's like to thank each of you for all being here and for your support over the years. That’s how we’re making a difference. Great companies, such as the Visionary Award winners, promote inclusion, candor, courage, and cohesion in the boardroom.
Tonight’s awardees illustrate how companies need to rejuvenate their boards to maintain their vibrancy and effectiveness.
For companies to compete successfully with everyone, everywhere, for everything, they need the best talent.
Corporate ocean liners turn very, very slowly. The percentage of women on Fortune 500 boards has gone from 11.7% in 2000 to slightly over 21% today.
While there hasn’t been a huge jump in 16-plus years, it is a growing movement. More significantly, several distinct trends bode well for an increase in women’s representation in the future, as well as a gain in younger board members.
- Demand for specific board skills.
- Movement away from sitting CEOs as the default board choice.
- Drop in CEOs serving on outside boards.
- Rise in qualified female candidates.
- Growing push from diversity “allies.”
All of these shifts are opening the aperture for women seeking board seats: in fact, this past year, women accounted for 32% of new independent directors in the S&P 500. There are also more women helping each other, referring qualified candidates to CEOs and, if they get a call from a board that’s not a fit, making sure they refer another woman to the role.
With your help, WCD has grown from the few directors gathering in my apartment to the most powerful community of women corporate and private company directors in the world.
Globally, the market cap of the public companies on whose boards WCD members serve on is over 8 trillion dollars. If WCD was a country, we would be bested only by the United States and China. Next we hope to add another trillion dollars by surveying our private / family company members. Our 78 chapters are in 41 countries on 5 continents. Our over 3,500 members serve on over 8,500 boards and chapters hold over 300 educational events per year. We host four institutes around the world. WCD has enabled over 500 women to go on to public and private company boards, created the Thought Leadership Reports and the Harvard Business School / Spencer Stuart Surveys.
Just one recent example of WCD’s impact was our first Institute in Latin America, in Chile, this Spring. President Bachelet keynoted our conference. Beforehand, a top stock exchange executive called me and asked WCD to ring the opening bell. I replied that we couldn’t as the entire board was comprised of 11 white males. He called back a day later and asked that if the stock exchange made a commitment to add a woman, could we work together and open the exchange. Of course we did.
A month later, the first woman director, a WCD member, was added to the board of the Chile Stock Exchange.
Spencer Stuart is doing a great job in the search for my replacement. But, what the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
So as part of my metamorphosis like to share a few thoughts on what I’ve learned while building WomenCorporateDirectors over the last 16 years.
- Pay attention to those you need on your side, because “if you want their support on the landing, include them in the take off".
- Status quo is Latin for the mess we’re in.
- The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
- When someone shows you their bad side. Believe them.
- If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.
- The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm, it’s dangerous because of those who watch and do nothing.
- On matters of style, swim with the current but on matters of principle stand like a rock.
- There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing and be nothing.
- Life is not about waiting for storms to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
- If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
- The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
- When something is important enough, you do it even if they odds are not in your favor.
- Good things happen slowly, bad things happen fast.
- Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
- If you don’t look facts in the face, they have a way of stabbing you in the back.
- If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.
- If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
- Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.
In conclusion, organizations stay healthy when departing leaders fulfill their final responsibility, helping to prepare their successors for their own success.
I hope that you will join me, when the decision is made on my successor, to both welcome her and continue to all work together to increase the number of qualified women on corporate and private boards. We need to collaborate to accelerate. Very little of consequence is ever accomplished alone, but instead by joint effort. We all want to be useful and want to belong to something larger than ourselves. WCD has been a joint effort of members around the world. We want to continue that spirit in order to change the face of corporate governance.
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you and a very big thank you for what you have all achieved for women and for attending tonight. It’s been an honor to work with such an exceptional group of leaders and to move the needle.
Thank you. God speed.