Insiders View to Leveraging a Diverse Board

Boston-area CEOs & VCs get together to talk better board building

Leveraging Your Board event in Boston

This week, we co-hosted an event with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Howard Fischer Associates (HFA) at First Republic Bank in Boston.

Speakers included experienced Boston-area board members and theBoardlist community members Julie Bradley, Matthew Bellows, Allison Mnookin and Michael George and special guest speaker Paul Underwood from AWS.

Characteristics of an Effective Board

Managing your board is something that startup founder/CEOs might not think about as they focus on their product and business model. But building and managing a strong, effective board can increase your perspective and really impact your company’s success.

Julie Bradley, former CFO at TripAdvisor and current board member at Wayfair and Blue Apron shared what she believes are the characteristics of an effective board:

  • it all starts with the CEO
  • boards require a thoughtful building out
  • due diligence is needed on both sides, starting before the interview stage
  • relationship & trust building starts during the recruitment process
  • everyone should have a specific role, you don’t want a room of change agents

Diversity and Boards

The group also led a robust and positive conversation about the topic of diversity on boards. Here are a few takeaways:

  • Diverse Companies Are More Successful — The data is out there, the more diverse the board, the better the outcome. It’s clear that better performance comes from having multiple perspectives. (Matthew Bellows, Founder & CEO of Yesware)
  • Diversity is Needed at All Levels of the Company — Think of your employee base — thoughtful diversity is important for recruitment and retention. Be careful of diversity for diversity’s sake, because neither party will be successful — make sure you’re really seeing all the possible talent to find the best candidate for the best outcome. (Julie Bradley)
  • Increasing Diversity is an Industry-Wide Issue— If all things are equal, choose the diverse candidate. We need to be more deliberate about fixing the lack of women in tech. (Michael George, CEO & Board Member, Continuum)
  • Think Outside the Board Box — Boards have to try “firsts”. Yes, everyone wants a CEO mentor but that is not always the right role/fit. I was a non-CEO and a first on the Fleetmatics board. (Allison Mnookin, Board Member, Fleetmatics; Board Member & Former CEO of QuickBase)

Takeaways for a Diverse Board

Understanding your client base and making sure you have a representation of their voice there is key to a healthy and diverse board. The panel referenced the Starbucks board, one of the more diverse large company boards out there. Their board includes millennial startup star Clara Shih (who is also a member of theBoardlist!) and Robert Gates, a 73-year-old Republican former Secretary of Defense. Diversity can include gender and race, but also age, geography or experience.

Learning more about board diversity

Thanks again to our sponsors and co-organizers and of course, to our speakers!


Ready to help us increase the number of qualified women on tech startup boards? Visit theboardlist.com/join to learn more.