( ENSPIRE News ) Corporate Counsel Women of Color Push for Diversity Within the Corporate Board Industry
ENSPIRE Contributor: Octavia Johnson
In support of Nasdaq’s visionary proposal to implement diversity-focused reporting and governance measures for companies registered on its exchange, Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC)—one of the country’s leading organizations that advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal profession—formally submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. CCWC’s move is the first step in its newly broadened mission to include a push for increased corporate board diversity.
The organization, headed by founder and CEO Laurie Robinson Haden, represents more than 4,500 women attorneys of color who serve as in-house lawyers for Fortune 500, mid-sized and multinational companies. Corporate board diversity emerged as a critical issue for in-house corporate attorneys who participate in the boardroom as strategic contributors, legal advisors, board secretaries, and governance experts at their companies. Her work involves CCWC in wall street and creating the movement that leads to more diversity and inclusion within the industry by leveraging their networks of partnerships strategically, while empowering and uplifting others, and creating talent pipelines. Haden dedicates her efforts to create a scalable network of value by having a cohesive community and super connections.
Studies by McKinsey & Co. have shown that ethnically diverse corporate boards generate returns and rates of growth that are 35% higher than companies with boards that are not diverse. In a global economy, inclusion is the key to future competitiveness, market forecasting, and investor confidence.
The CCWC comment letter highlights the expanding role of in-house counsel as business advisors because of their increased responsibilities for investor relations and as a source of guidance on enterprise strategy. Haden states in the letter, “In-house corporate attorneys have become increasingly influential as strategic advisors to senior leaders, managers and business unit teams on issues and transactions related to business growth. For our organization, making a formal declaration of support for Nasdaq’s proposal to advance board diversity is important to our DE&I mission.”
Teresa Sebastian, the president and CEO of The Dominion Asset Group and long-time CCWC member and director on two public boards, concurs. “The events of 2020 provided a cataclysmic breakthrough in public awareness that stock market governing organizations, among others, have a role in promoting diversity in the boardrooms. It has long been the fact that inclusivity benefits economic opportunity, shareholder value, access to capital, and overall financial stability in our markets. Companies can no longer afford to rely on a monolithic and exclusive perspective towards business operations, strategy, and corporate culture that shuts out stakeholders who can offer a different and valuable perspective.”
CCWC will lead other board diversity actions in 2021, according to Haden. “One of my goals as CEO is to strategically align our organization as an influential force in the corporate board diversity conversation. In the next quarter, we will be launching a series of initiatives and new partnerships to promote board readiness and talent recruitment. We are excited about the possibilities.”
Founded in 2004, the Corporate Counsel Women of Color is a 501(c)(3) organization. Its core mission centers on serving as a diversity leadership and advocacy organization for women attorneys of color serving corporate legal departments throughout the country and abroad. Its members serve as in-house counsel and business advisors for Fortune 1000 and Forbes 2000 companies in the United States, Canada, and countries within Asia, Africa, and Europe.