New training programme aims to increase diversity on boards

Executives from diverse backgrounds will have access to a robust suite of resources

The National Association of Corporate Directors (“NACD”), the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (“Vista”) and the RH Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”) have joined forces to launch a new diversity and inclusion programme

The initiative aims to increase diversity among directors on the remuneration, nomination and governance committees of private and public company boards.

The programme provides individuals from underrepresented backgrounds with access to a comprehensive 12-month training programme designed to prepare them to serve on remuneration, nomination and governance committees, focusing on general business, human resources and committee preparation. 

More representation 

Peter Gleason, NACD president and CEO, said: “With the new programme, we will offer executives from a diverse set of backgrounds access to our premier director education, including the opportunity to earn their NACD Directorship Certification® designation, continuing education sessions, extensive networking opportunities, and access to NACD’s leading governance research and resources.”

These new efforts build on the programme introduced last year by Vista and NACD. The first cohort of this programme – which was announced in November 2021 – is currently completing its curriculum and working towards NACD director certification.

Companies are more aware

Despite the record number of new directors from historically underrepresented groups in the 2021 proxy year, the overall representation of certain demographic groups on S&P 500 boards was lower than their representation in the U.S. population (42%). 

In fact, even with the progress made that year, people of colour represented only 21% of all S&P 500 directors; 49 S&P 500 companies (10%) were led by Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a, Asian, Native American/Alaskan Native, or multiracial CEOs.  

Only 8% of independent board chairs and 10% of lead independent directors were from historically underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, according to the U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index 2021 Highlights. 

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr, SHRM-SCP, SHRM Chairman, CEO and outside board member of iCIMS, a portfolio company of Vista Equity Partners, added: “More than ever, companies are beginning to realise that it is critical that we have representation from HR around the board table. Diversity across perspectives and backgrounds as a strategic imperative is a necessity in the boardroom and gives companies a distinct competitive advantage.”

Diverse pipeline 

In terms of organisation this year, SHRM will lead the programme by identifying and seeking out diverse, high-performing executives. Vista and NACD will partner to equip the cohort with a thorough understanding of the responsibilities associated with effective board roles and to ensure exposure to corporate board opportunities through their wider ecosystems.

Working with NACD and SHRM to establish this new programme helps VISTA create a pipeline of diverse talent for board oversight roles, which, alongside their other programmes and initiatives, will ensure the representation of diverse backgrounds and perspectives at all levels of an organisation.

“Paramount to Vista’s DE&I efforts is building a diverse pipeline of talent within the Firm, our portfolio, and the business community at large,” concluded Bessie Watts, Vista’s External Consulting Program Director.

Before this, Vista, which always seeks to promote board diversity within its portfolio and the wider industry, launched an external board programme in 2017. Today, this programme identifies leading independent board members for Vista’s portfolio companies and builds programmes like those recently announced to accelerate diversity across all boards.

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