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Intersection
DELIVERING ON DIVERSITY, GENDER EQUALITY, AND INCLUSION
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In this issue, we look at a mismatch between the work that companies reward and what they say they value. Plus: the relationships you need to get on a corporate board, and a project created to document the experiences of Black corporate directors.
THE STAT
25%
That’s roughly the share of US and Canadian companies that recognize the work that employees do to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in formal evaluations like performance reviews. Meanwhile, nearly 70 percent of companies say that that DEI work is critical. Women leaders are taking on much of this crucial work—which is largely going unrewarded. In the words of one Asian American female VP: “We’ve been told that our DEI work is above and beyond our day jobs. It’s frustrating. We’re working on DEI after hours in the evenings, on weekends, and on vacation. And there’s no formal recognition of all the effort.”
Here’s more on how companies can put their stated values into action—and avoid losing the very leaders they need right now.
THE VIEW
A photo of a nurse wearing personal protective equipment and scrubs
“You have to have relationships to get on a board. People go around the table and say, ‘Who do you know?’ or ‘Who’s on what board already?’”
— Barry Lawson Williams
Barry Lawson Williams has served on the boards of 16 major public companies over the course of his career. In a recent McKinsey interview, the founder of Williams Pacific Ventures—an investment and consulting company in San Francisco—reflects on his career path and the importance of taking risks, building strong networks, and proactively seeking sponsors. Williams also discusses his efforts to get more Black executives on boards.
Williams, who is now 77, was on five different boards when he began to approach his retirement. A weighty question arose: “What is the likelihood that I will be succeeded by a Black director?” Williams set about increasing that likelihood; ultimately, a Black director succeeded him on two of those boards. Williams says it’s essential to develop the pipeline of Black leaders “to destroy this myth that there’s a lack of supply.” That means both identifying potential candidates—particularly Black women—and offering them mentorship and training.
A few years ago, Williams realized that more and more Black directors were retiring from corporate boards. He decided to create a record of their experiences that could be passed on to the next generation. Williams embarked on the Black Corporate Directors Time Capsule Project and interviewed 50 Black directors who together had served on nearly 275 corporate boards. Among the parting lessons from retiring board members for Black leaders who aspire to be on boards, or who have recently become board members: “Remember that you are not there because ‘they ran out of smart White people.’”
Williams himself has advice for all those coming up through the corporate ranks: identify someone who can help you and ask that person for help. As he recalls, “None of my sponsors were losing sleep because they weren’t doing something for me. They were delighted to take on this role, but I had to ask them first.”
— Edited by Julia Arnous, an editor in McKinsey’s Boston office
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