Directors to watch 2011: Enlightened boards are expanding their collective pools of leadership wisdom by drawing upon the richly diverse portfolio of talents and experiences that accomplished individuals like these are bringing to the boardroom.

Author:Chase, Scott

THE IMPORTANCE and the positive impact of diversity in the boardroom no longer is a compelling premise for real debate. The experts have weighed in, actions have been taken, and the resulting trends and statistics can't be argued--diversity wins!

In fact, the case for gender and ethnic diversity is so strong that some nations, such as Norway back in 2006, have legislated that corporate boards reflect in no small way the prevailing population and demographic trends of the nation itself. France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy are ready-ing similar mandates.

Enlightened boards have expanded their collective pools of wisdom and experience by engaging talented directors who bring more than a desired gender or ethnic background. Today those attributes, when and where appropriate, are being complemented by expertise in information technology, social media, global outlook, M&A, and other competencies.

GovernanceMetrics International's 2011 Women on Boards Report shows a modest increase in women on boards over the three years and roughly 4,200 global companies encompassed by its ongoing statistical research. Meanwhile, our own yardstick, the Directors & Boards quarterly Directors Roster, sponsored by Heidrick & Struggles, shows continued progress as well. Over the past year the minimum number of new appointments going to women stood at 26%, with the maximum being 38%, both figures well above the traditional norms.

WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) has just issued a "Call to Action" to industry leaders proposing 10 steps to bring more women onto boards across corporate North America. This action plan--which includes such steps as building the pipeline through advocacy and mentorship, assuring that every director slate includes at least one woman, and declaring board diversity a necessary component of good governance--provides a roadmap to better management, better results, and a more comprehensive worldview.

We believe that our 2011 class of Directors to Watch is and will remain at the forefront of this positive and lasting change for directors and boards.

Yasmin T. Bates-Brown

Executive Vice President, Harris Bank

YASMIN BATES-BROWN has applied her leadership skills with both corporate and nonprofit organizations in the Chicago area for 34 years. She has created, grown and managed large profitable financial business units for Harris Bank, a multibillion-dollar financial institution. She has led Harris through new business start-ups, organizational restructurings, acquisition integrations, and rapid growth in chal-lenging communities.

As executive vice president of community affairs and economic development, Bates-Brown managed all of Harris' corporate giving of $18 million for three years. Additionally, she created a "best in class" team that successfully leveraged relationships to generate new business for the bank. As executive vice president of Harris Bank's Chicagoland South Division, she dramatically grew the division by increasing revenue significantly during her tenure. She played a major role in the expansion of the bank's footprint by adding over 50 locations through start-ups and bank acquisitions. She managed a team of 1700 employees and over $10 million in assets. As president of Harris Chicago Community Bank, she expanded small business, community development, and real estate and consumer loan services throughout Chicagoland to double-digit growth. P&L performance of Chicago Community Bank was consistently at the top of the 24 Community Bank's list. Her work was lauded in the Chicago Tribune and Grain's Chicago Business.


Bates-Brown currently serves on the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. Her prior corporate board experience includes Harris Naperville, Harris NWI, Harris New Lennox, and Harris Joliet. Nonprofit board experience includes Girl Scouts of GCNWI, Glenwood School for Boys and Girls, Ullrich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN), Neighborhood Housing Services, the Metropolitan Planning Council, Fannie Mae National Advisory Board, and Shedd Aquarium.

As a business leader, she has earned numerous community service awards during her career as well as sustained recognition for leadership abilities. Among these are Chicago United's Business Leaders of Color Award, Grain's Chicago Business 100 Most Influential list, U.S. Banker Lifetime Achievement Award, and Boardroom Bound Charter Lifetime Friend.

Don't Overlook the Importance of Succession Planning: "An increasing number of companies have experienced changes in leadership over the past few years. While directors have many other pressing issues, they cannot afford to overlook the importance of succession planning. Focusing on internal candidates sends a message to shareholders and employees that the company is investing the time and effort to cultivate internal management and consequently strengthen the organization. Directors should become familiar with the company's executive officers so that they can offer helpful input on succession candidates. This can occur by having managers attend and provide meaningful presentations at board meetings. Directors should also seek insight as to how the company is developing its high-performing managers and whether those managers are getting the right kind of ongoing coaching and assignments that help foster leadership skills. Succession planning must be addressed even when you're content with the existing CEO and leadership team. This process should be viewed as a long-term and ongoing responsibility to ensure a smooth transition in the event one occurs."

Mona Pearl

Founder and Chief Operating Officer, BeyondAStrategy Inc.

MONA PEARL'S experience in international strategic development and global entrepreneurship has been vital in helping companies design and execute their global strategies. Pearl is known for...

To continue reading