Welcome To Your Athena Journey!

Getting Started

This portal is a comprehensive resource for board service preparation and includes opportunities for connecting with the Athena community and applying for board opportunities.

When you dismiss this message, you will see your "Journey Dashboard." This dashboard is your roadmap for growth and has been specially designed to prepare you for board service.

You'll start with "Goal Setting and Journey Planning" with your mentor and then move into phase work. Please note that, although all phase resources are available to you at any time, we strongly suggest completing your current phase before moving on to the next.

If ever you get lost, simply click the "My Journey" button in the upper right-hand corner of the site to return to your Journey Dashboard. It is of the utmost importance to us that this portal provide you with all resources you need to reach your board goals. Please don't hesitate to reach out to coco@athenaalliance.org with any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Thank you for being a member of The Athena Alliance. We look forward to the journey ahead!

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Why a CHRO Will Be the Next Must-Have Role in the Boardroom

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By Coco Brown, founder and CEO of Athena Alliance

CHRO in the Boardroom

Traditionally, the makeup of corporate boards has followed a clear set of parameters: a CIO for technology strategy, a CFO for financial strategy, a CEO to teach your own chief executive how to move the company forward. Today, many of the challenges companies face make a compelling case for adding another must-have role to the board – a chief human resources officer (CHRO), who can provide guidance around talent acquisition and culture, succession planning, compensation, board structure and evaluation, and more.

Recent news has been full of stories about high-performing companies with cultures that enabled deceitful practices or toxic workplaces. Some of the CHRO areas of expertise, once considered “the soft stuff,” have become “the strategic stuff.” And with the very nature of work changing amid automation, visionary leaders see multiple reasons to attract top CHROs to their boards. 

Increasingly, corporations are realizing they must incorporate the CHRO function on their boards. Below are four reasons why:

Succession planning

The primary job of any board of directors is to make sure the right leadership team is in place to drive the business, and the CEO is at the heart of that goal. A strong leadership bench is one with a succession plan in place, but this is a delicate topic. There are disclosure issues around such material information, of course, and some CEOs need encouragement to leave when the time is right – whether the change is contentious or not. Similarly, boards are often nervous about the timing of such shifts, particularly when they perceive a lack of a strong successor.

Managing through these issues doesn’t come naturally to many board members, but it does for experienced CHROs. Such executives can offer insights on planned transitions and how to navigate the process, from identifying internal candidates to talking about development plans to introducing these topics to chief executives. These processes are becoming more formal and documented, thanks to shareholder activism and regulatory requirements.

Jan Becker, an Athena Alliance member who was most recently the head of people and facilities at Autodesk, brought on a couple of new CEOs during her 17 years at the company, and she worked with the board on succession planning. She’s overseen transitions driven by internal planning and those driven by activist shareholders, and notes that while the two scenarios are different, they have one thing in common.

“Success depends on the quality of the decision-making discussion and the ability of the board of directors to hear each other and act as a real team,” Becker says. “When there is a CHRO on the board of directors, it makes it more likely the process and the conversations will be high quality.”

Compensation strategy

CHROs are experts in designing compensation and equity structures that incentivize, motivate and align the right behaviors and results. This is key for the CEO, as the role of the board is to manage the chief executive’s performance. However, it’s also critical for the overarching structure of the business. Often, the single most expensive line item in a company is its people. Optimizing spend to performance and outcome is essential for business longevity, and a CHRO is uniquely able to deliver insights in this area.

Board structure performance and evaluation

Strong self-governance is an increasingly recognized essential capability of the board of directors. CHROs are experts here, too, and can help the board operate effectively as a collective, evaluate individual and team performance to meet evolving needs, and ensure meetings are run well.

People, culture and the future of work

While many businesses have focused their board invitations on technical leaders who can guide them through technological transitions, companies need to be equally concerned about shifts in the workforce. Millennials now comprise more than one-third of employees, and they bring a different dynamic to the workplace. Meanwhile, rapid advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will transform many roles, while creating new ones.

The nature of work is changing, and shareholders are right in their increasing emphasis on talent and culture. As Athena Alliance member, recent PayPal CHRO and McKinsey Advisor Marcia Morales-Jaffe puts it,

“Often viewed as a threat, the rapid progress in automation really creates an opportunity for visionary leaders to embrace its enormous potential and develop action plans. Boards need to consider adding members fluent in innovation and its implications for the future of work. A CHRO with the right experience can be an invaluable asset to the board.”

Beyond transitions in the nature of work, the challenges surrounding people and culture crop up throughout the lifecycle of a business. Whether the company in start-up, hyper-growth or acquisition mode, leaders and boards need to ensure they begin with the end in mind in terms of talent and organizational culture.

Athena Alliance member Kathy Zwickert most recently served as the chief people officer at NetSuite, named in the top 10 of Bay Area Best Companies year after year. She says,

“When the company is growing organically, the tone from the top must be an imperative to hire the best talent, who are also aligned with the values and culture of the company. And when the business grows through acquisition, retaining key talent and integrating them should be one of the most important considerations. If the people and the knowledge leave the target business, the value of the asset could be seriously diminished. A CHRO on the board not only understands this, but will also hold management accountable to ensure deals increase shareholder value in the long run.”

The rise of the CHRO in the boardroom

In an article for Harvard Business Review (HBR) titled, “People before strategy: a new role for the CHRO,” the authors called for CHROs to take their place beside CFOs in terms of strategic value to companies. The writers – including the global managing director at McKinsey, an advisor to CEOs and corporate boards, and an HBR author – note, “It is up to the CEO to elevate HR and to bridge any gaps that prevent the CHRO from becoming a strategic partner.”

That same HBR article suggests that discussion of people should come before discussion of strategy. That is certainly happening – to a point. According to CEB and Gartner, 67 percent of U.S. public companies discussed talent matters in their 2017 Q1/Q2 earnings calls. And in the past six months, numerous companies in the communications, banking, manufacturing and other sectors have announced the appointments of senior human resources executives to their boards of directors.

Corporate boards need to include experienced chief human resources officers. For those corporations that don’t yet have directors capable of furthering people-driven conversations, it’s past time for a change.

Join Us at the Athena Alliance Boston Launch Party!

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Please join the Athena Alliance and OpenView Venture Partners for a launch party for Athena Alliance Boston! 

OpenView and Athena Alliance Boston Launch Party

Changing the world is much more than a job for one organization, and we’re so honored to have incredible partners in our journey to parity in the boardroom. The Athena Alliance is proud to announce that Boston based OpenView will serve as our Atlantic Northeast hub following an Athena Alliance Boston launch party!

Join us November 7 as we celebrate our partnership with OpenView and take the first step toward expanding Athena’s mission from California across the nation. Register here for your spot at what promises to be an inspiring, encouraging night with top executives and leaders, including Coco Brown and OpenView members!

Please Join Us at The Catalyst Conference

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Girls in Tech To Host Fourth Annual Catalyst Conference and The Athena Alliance is a major partner in this event with 14 of our members speaking. Athena members recieve a 25% discount. Please use the code ATHENA

Girls in Tech is proud to announce the fourth annual Catalyst Conference, a three-day event designed to celebrate women in this new age of innovation. The event will take place at Hotel Palomar in Phoenix, Arizona on April 17-19, 2016. Click here to purchase tickets!

“The Catalyst Conference was created to provide our attendees with an environment that allows for true and honest conversations about important issues including gender diversity in the workplace and how we can better support girls in tech.” said Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech. “We look forward to hosting another great group of attendees with a solid lineup of workshops and conversations in Phoenix in April.”

The Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference will include inspiring keynotes from female leaders, as well as multi-media presentations and networking events. The conference also offers attendees exciting discussion and sage advice on innovation and technology, and will provide them with a platform to exchange ideas, connect with other influential women, and create lasting business relationships that could have considerable impact on the technology industry at large.

“As an advocate for innovation in government, I know how valuable it is to collaborate with techies outside my organization,” said Laura Williams, Catalyst speaker and eDiplomacy Officer, United States Department of State. “I’m looking forward to connecting with the women of Girls in Tech, hearing their stories, learning from their perspectives, and brainstorming new ideas.”

There are more than two dozen speakers confirmed for this year’s event, including:
Amy Bunszel, Vice President, AutoCAD Products, Autodesk
Leah Busque, Founder & CEO, TaskRabbit
Sandy Carter, Social Business Evangelist & General Manager, Cloud Ecosystem & Developers, IBM
Mercedes De Luca, COO, Basecamp
Debra Jensen, CIO, Charlotte Russe
Rashmi Kumar, Vice President of Information Technology, McKesson
Fran Maier, Founder & Chair of the Board, TRUSTe and co-founder of Match.com
Monique Morrow, CTO, New Frontiers Engineering, Cisco Systems, Inc.
Cheryl Porro, Senior Vice President, Technology & Products, Salesforce
Kara Swisher, Executive Editor & Co-Founder, Re/Code
Jennifer Tejada, President & CEO of Keynote
Kristen Wolberg, Vice President of Technology, PayPal

Featured discussion topics include:
Fuel­ing the She-Economy: Why It Matters
Build­ing Your Brand, Net­work­ing, and Show­cas­ing You
Prac­ti­cal Prod­uct Mar­ket­ing: Engag­ing your Cus­tomers to Drive Advo­cacy and Growth
Diver­sity and Inclu­sion: Lever­ag­ing The But­ter­fly Effect
What it Takes to Build a Great Com­pany: Mis­takes Entre­pre­neurs Make That No One Talks About
How the Accel­er­ated Learn­ing Model is Help­ing to Alter the Gen­der Dis­par­ity in the Tech­nol­ogy Work­force
This is the second year that Girls in Tech has held their flagship event in Phoenix, acknowledging the area’s potential to harness and support women as they pursue tech and entrepreneurial endeavors.

“We’re excited to welcome the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference back to downtown for the second year in a row,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Some of the world’s most innovative women in technology will come together in Phoenix to empower other women to lead and succeed in this critical field.”

Catalyst Conference is sponsored by Automattic, IBM, H&R Block Small Business, Wells Fargo, Axosoft, Infusionsoft, City of Phoenix and Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Athena Alliance is also a proud partner for the event. Television and radio show host Kym McNicholas will emcee the event.

For more information about speakers and schedule of events and to register to attend, please visit: http://phoenix.catalyst.girlsintech.org/

Click here to purchase tickets!