2020 Meeting

Are you ready to discover if board service is right for you? Are you ready to commit to taking steps to make that a reality?

In January 2019, twelve women started Austin’s first Board Readiness Mastermind: A 12-month program for taking concrete steps toward board service. This Mastermind is organized by 2020 Women on Boards Austin co-chairs Dr. Sara Faivre, an experienced public company board director, peer group facilitator and executive coach and Janice Jenkins Chair of Austin 2020 Women on Board, is a co-facilitator.

Individually, and as a group, we are committed to taking the concrete steps necessary to gain our first (or next) corporate board seat. This is about more than non-profit board service – it’s about public and private corporate boards.

To start, we took a self-audit of our suitability for board service. Then we had an open and in-depth discussion about board service, including what makes a good candidate at various career stages. Our Mastermind curriculum includes:

  • Education– Curriculum and materials to guide preparing for – and landing – your first board seat. We receive electronic copies of all notes and handouts.
  • Networking– Active board members from local chapters of Women Corporate Directors and National Assoc. of Corporate Directors are monthly guests and co-facilitators.
  • Community– Small group size and a “buddy-system” provide a strong peer group of like-minded professionals.
  • Accountability– Staying on track through a solid action plan, with reporting and feedback each month from group members and facilitators
  • Support– Weekly video “office hours” with Sara Faivre for spot coaching and questions
  • Professional Events– Guest attendance at local 2019 NACD Chapter events
  • Books- Copies of The Board Game by Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire and Earn Your Seat on a Corporate Board by Jill Griffin
  • Assessment– Identify and leverage strengths with a StrengthsFinder assessment and debrief.

What are our chances for being nominated or selected to serve on a corporate board? A recent study by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte called the Missing Pieces Report spans several years to provide insight into board diversity changes across Fortune 100 and 500 companies.

We took a deep dive into the research and found some encouraging statistics and motivating data that sheds light on the increasing role of both women and minorities in the corporate world. As we celebrate Women’s Month in March, here are 5 key findings to note:

  1. Total representation of women in the boardroom in Fortune 100 companies increased from 16.9% in 2004 to 25.0% in 2018. In Fortune 500 companies, the increase for the same years went from 15.7% to 22.5%.
  2. In both Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies African American and Asian/Pacific Island women made the largest gain, more than any other group in board seats.
  3. More than half of the Fortune 500 companies have at least 30% women and minorities on their board and nearly one third have more than 40% diversity.
  4. While Board Chair roles held by women went down since 2016, 40.2% of Committee Chair roles are women and/or minorities.
  5. An additional study by Credit Suisse Research Institute showed that “company shares with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26% worldwide over a six-year period.”

While this report is encouraging, there is still work to be done. The original goal of the Alliance for Board Diversity was for women and minorities to occupy 40% of all board seats in the Fortune 500 by 2020. However, at the current rate that target won’t be met until 2026.

That said, the report’s conclusion is solid evidence that women in board seats contribute to risk mitigation, increased performance, and a bigger bottom line. Whether you are a woman yourself with an opportunity for board membership or you are a male in the position of nominating or hiring a female board member – or even giving up your seat – let’s continue the education, awareness and diligent work to meet these goals together.

As the report so aptly concludes: “The time is now for Fortune 500 boards to consider the benefits and skill sets that gender, racial and ethnic diversity could bring to boardroom discussions.”

Sharon serves on three non-profit boards and is available for service on a public or private board that would benefit from her Diversity and International Business experience.


Sharon Schweitzer and Ashley Blake co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, attorney, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (Wiley 2015), now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.

Ashley Blake is the founder of Traverse Journeys, an impact-based adventure travel provider with a focus on social and environmental responsibility. Ashley holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, focusing her research on music for social change in Brazil. Ashley also holds a BA and BS in International Studies and Print Media from Oregon State University with minors in Spanish and Music. Ashley’s academic and professional background merge in her work in project management, consulting, and international tourism. Ashley is a fluent Spanish speaker with basic skills in Portuguese, German and Arabic with experience in more than 40 countries across the globe. Ashley is passionate about connection, communication and coordination in order to link others with the opportunities and experiences that promote personal, professional and community growth.