By The Athena Alliance
Just under 18 months ago, a group of dedicated, powerhouse executive women made the decision to upgrade their regular meetings to a mission-driven non-profit organization — dedicated to furthering gender parity on corporate boards. Since then, the Athena Alliance has made incredible strides in seeing this objective through to fulfillment. Our vision is of a world where everyone benefits from the indisputable value of women contributing at the highest levels of leadership, alongside men and in parity – 50/50. Our first mission in achieving this vision is to bring more women to the boardroom by supporting women in the last mile efforts to get them in the right place at the right time and ready to share their unique and relevant value. Further we support our mission by enhancing the intimate network of boards and making introductions to the right women for the vacant seats they need to fill.
Our first 18 months have been spent mostly as an unknown entity relying on critical early believers like Autodesk, Intuit, Microsoft, OpenView Venture Partners, Deloitte and PwC and a few key connections within our small team to drive opportunity and awareness. We all worked hard to contribute far more than we might ever see come back to us to build relationships, deliver value and spread the word. We are now beginning to see ourselves on a national stage, with VCs calling Athena, with F500 companies reaching out and women and boards spreading the word of the great value they are getting.
In just 18 months, we have supported more than 30 boards and women from all over the US in the consideration of women directors. Within this, we have more than 20 actively considering Athena women today (a combination of both private and public companies). Six have brought Athena women to their boards. Beyond these end results, the meaningful expansion of networks for women and boards is almost immeasurable. We’ve put forward more than 150 women, ensuring “eyeballs” to their profiles, and we’ve secured more than 60 first interviews, many resulting in multiple interviews with board directors and CEOs.
While we have well over 700 C-level women in our close network, by the end of the year we expect more than 100 will be Athena members (we have 94 now). These women are Pioneers (already on a public company board), or Aspiring Directors (breadth and level of leadership clearly qualified to serve on a private — generally series B or later — or public board). Our members get white-glove, high-touch, 1:1 and intimate group coaching around board selection readiness. We also work actively to enhance their networks in the right ways, connecting them to CEOs, VCs, seated directors and board recruiters. And, we help raise their visibility through PR, speaking opportunities and awards.
We have received incredible feedback from the CEOs and board members of those companies we have worked with so far.
“Sourcing world class board members is a tough challenge for a startup. Typically, our options are limited to going through our existing board, or personal networks. Athena opened up a new channel for us, and allowed us to meet incredibly talented and driven women execs who were board ready. I could not recommend Athena more strongly if sourcing world class women leaders for your board is important to you.”
– Lawrence Coburn, CEO – DoubleDutch
“The Athena Alliance connected us with a broad array of incredibly talented women from a variety of disciplines, all with deep knowledge and experience in various technology sectors. Importantly, the process could not have been easier and more enjoyable.”
– Rick Smith, CEO – Axon
“… The Athena Alliance has given me an incredibly high quality peer group to network with and learn from. The connections I’ve made through Athena are with people who truly care about supporting each other and have the wisdom and experience to add Value.”
– Amy Bunszel, VP of Digital Products – Autodesk, Athena member
“Athena has a unique approach to not just help women prepare for board service, butbuilding an active network that connects boards directly with candidates. Within monthsof joining Athena I was in conversation with a Fortune 500 company.”
– Obi Felten, Head of Moonshots – X (Formerly Google X), Athena member
Athena closed 2016 with total contributions slightly over $300,000, in large part due to a few key believers – Autodesk, Intuit, DLA Piper, and those 35 women I mentioned earlier. 2017 could be a $1,000,000 year, enabling us to accelerate impact on a much bigger scale. We have $800,000 in our sights now and are preparing to launch in two new regions. I want to encourage you to put our December 7th fundraiser on your calendar (more info coming to our site) and do what you can to help us raise the last $200,000 to reach, not only a goal, but significantly enhanced momentum and power for a very worthy vision.
We are honored to report such wonderful success in such a short time. It takes a village, and we are blessed with an amazing one. Athena is devoted to making even more progress in the rest of 2017 and in years to come. Join us, and let’s move this needle at an acceptable rate together! Please visit us at athenaalliance.org to learn more.