Earlier this year, Morrison & Foerster hosted NACD Northern California Chapter in its first of a series of programs that examine the latest trends and insights for building bridges within organizations and assessing whether boards are facilitating optimal refreshment. MoFo is an annual sponsor of NACD Northern California Chapter.
Partner and co-chair of MoFo's Global Corporate department Jackie Liu joined the panel discussion along with leader of Egon Zehnder's U.S. Consumer Practice, Sarah Van Dyck; founder and leader of the global Digital segment of Egon Zehnder's Technology and Communications Practice, Martha Josephson; member of Ascend Pinnacle and director emeritus of NACD Northern California Chapter's board, Evelyn Dilsaver; and member of Ascend Pinnacle and board chairman of NACD Northern California Chapter, Dennis Wu.
Key points of discussion included:
- Methods for finding diverse candidates beyond the usual networks
- Leading practices for identifying new directors
- The state of boardroom diversity around the world
- The impact of the California quota law
The program also presented an educational and insightful overview of multiple studies demonstrating the link between diversity and increased financial performance, as well as the key benefits of a diverse board for key stakeholders and consumers. Egon Zehnder's 2018 Global Board Diversity Report captured data from surveys distributed over the course of 14 years, representing 1,610 companies from 44 countries.
A key takeaway from the Global Board Diversity Report was that, although more women are joining boards, progress is still slow and somewhat inconsistent. While nearly 85% of the companies surveyed have at least one female director, just 5.6% of all board seats are held by women in leadership roles.
The concept of "critical mass" or the "rule of three" establishes that it takes at least three women on a board to fully reap the benefits of gender diversity, according to the studies. In the U.S. and Canada, the average number of female directors is just shy of that goal at 2.5. So what can we do to turn talk into action? Some suggestions made by the panel included making leadership more accountable, setting measurable goals, picking for potential, and training the board for success.
MoFo has long been committed to promoting diversity in leadership and creating a culture of opportunity within the firm. In 2017, MoFo's New York office hosted its first "Change from the Top," an event focused on sharing best practices to promote diverse leadership in male-dominated industries, close the gender gap, tackle unconscious bias, and overcome climates of silence. MoFo's San Francisco office will invite CEOs and general counsels to Change from the Top in 2019 for the second of what will be a biennial and bicoastal event.
In addition, the firm's Diversity and Women's Strategy Committees work closely with senior leadership to identify opportunities for sponsorship and development. The firm was part of the inaugural class of major law firms recognized by Diversity Lab as having achieved "Mansfield Certification," which measures whether a firm has considered at least 30 percent women and attorneys of color for leadership and governance roles.
MoFo also achieved "Mansfield Certification Plus" status in 2018, indicating that, in addition to considering at least 30 percent women and attorneys of color for leadership and governance roles, the firm successfully reached at least 30 percent women and minority lawyer representation in a notable number of current leadership roles and committees.
Learn more about MoFo's diversity and inclusion initiatives here.
You can also view all upcoming NACD Northern California Chapter events here.