Toni Townes-Whitley advocated for corporate board diversity in a recent keynote address at Milwaukee Women inc’s 20th anniversary celebration. She discussed Nasdaq’s trailblazing action in 2021 to adjust its listing rules, requiring all Nasdaq-listed companies to annually disclose board-level diversity statistics using a standardized template and have – or explain why they do not have – at least two diverse directors by 2025/2026. She also discussed intentional strategies for equity and inclusion for public and private companies.
“For all the women already on a board, remember there are others coming behind you. You don’t own the seat, you’re just warming the seat.”
“The real impact of the Nasdaq rule, in addition to the narrative and the message that it sends, is the data that it will collect. This data will provide transparency so that we have something to measure, which we haven’t completely had before.”
“I would ask the CEOs to think about how you change the way you think about your board and your future board and start to think about the talent and expertise you need, not just the job title. Think function and where your company is going, not just where it’s been.”
“We need more women of color, Hispanic women, African American women at the table, and the only way they are coming to the table is if we acknowledge the bias that exists at every form of diversity.”
“For all the women who want to be on a board, I encourage you to have some resilience. Stay at it even if the first few times it doesn’t land. You have to do this when you are excellent at your job. High performance gives you the basis to say, ‘I think I’m ready.’”
“Meritocracy is a mindset – an often-subconscious mindset – which says, ‘I believe we need to diversify boards as a social good.’ This mindset somehow believes that when you diversify the representation, you are making a tradeoff on quality or excellence.”