There is no shortage of qualified women for boards, but there is a need to connect these exceptional women to boards looking to fill an open seat. The current pace of change toward gender parity in the boardroom is 1% per year. At this rate parity for the largest companies will be achieved in 30 years, and for the smallest 50 or more.
The need for an organization that can scale to accelerate the pace of change has become increasingly apparent. We believe Athena is that organization! We expect to see significant expansion for the organization in 2017 through membership development, program sponsorships, and board opportunities. To accelerate our own scale and ability to drive change, Nancy Sheppard, who has expertly led Women2Boards with the same mission, is joining us. Her addition provides us with more resources to augment that expansion.
Nancy founded Women2Boards in late 2014 to provide matching services for smaller company boards. Women2Boards also assisted its members on their journey, providing 1:1 coaching and guidance as they explored board opportunities. Since its inception, the organization has served over 100 women nationwide, and has made more than 30 referrals of qualified women to boards and search firms.
Since Athena’s inception less than one year ago, we have connected women with 17 board opportunities at organizations of all sizes, from large public companies to late-stage private companies; there are more board opportunities on deck to be added this quarter. The organization has received more than $400,000 in donations, including major support from industry leaders Autodesk, Intuit and DLA Piper.
The Athena Alliance is not a recruiting firm and it is not a board training program. Rather, the organization serves as an extension of a board’s intimate network, introducing them to incredible executive women. At the same time, we are an essential part of a woman’s support structure, helping her overcome the ‘last mile’ barriers to board service and ensuring that she is prepared, such that when she is tapped for a board opportunity it’s hers if she wants it.
Nancy will join The Athena Alliance as a member of our Leadership Team with a focus on membership advisory services for women preparing to serve in board roles. She will also drive communications strategies and programs to advance Athena’s mission.
Nancy’s past experience includes 20+ years as CEO and director, Western Independent Bankers, founding board member for a bank services corporation, and trustee for a workers’ self-insurance group. She was a member of the leadership team at the California Bankers Association and spent several years on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Her record of working in male-dominated environments has given her a passion to assist more women break through the boardroom ceiling. She was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times. Because of her leadership in the board diversity movement, she was asked to chair the 2020 Women on Boards San Francisco, National Discussion on Board Diversity for the past two years.
I am delighted that Nancy is joining Athena and bringing with her the best practices and wisdom she has developed through Women2Boards. Her past experience, obvious passion for and dedication to helping women as they reach for a board seat will be an incredible asset to our program..