Every day, CEOs make decisions that have the potential to change their company’s trajectory and alter the industry landscape in which they operate. It starts with building a talented board of directors that provides leadership support and drives accountability. When you have a massive and diverse customer base, employee population, and target market, you also need a diverse board to serve them.
Today we’re officially welcoming Erika James, the Dean of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, to our board.
There’s so much to say about Erika: With over 20 years in academics, she knows the education sector inside and out, an area where we have a large customer footprint and a great growth opportunity. She’s also trained in survey methodology and understands the resources academics need to produce groundbreaking research like her work on leadership and crisis management, which has been a catalyst for conversations in boardrooms (and beyond) in organizations across the globe.
She’s a luminary in the field of organizational psychology, and an award-winning educator who is shaping the next generation of business leaders by instilling in them the value of making decisions based on diverse points of view.
As the first black woman to be appointed dean of a top 25 business school, Erika is exactly the kind of change agent we need on our board. Her research and consulting work inspires companies to be more thoughtful about their hiring and leadership principles, and encourages women to pursue a career in business. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal about her efforts to encourage women to enroll in MBA programs she said, “Differences become less salient when there is more equality in the representation.”
That last point is particularly relevant because with the addition of Erika, women represent 50% of SurveyMonkey’s board.
Many companies haven’t made efforts to diversify their hiring, or their leadership. White men still take up nearly 70% of director positions on Fortune 500 boards. In a SurveyMonkey poll of U.S. workers conducted this past April, 70 percent of white employees felt that their opinions were valued at work. Only 58 percent of black employees felt the same. Erika’s own research found that investor reactions to the announcement of female CEOs were significantly more negative than announcements of male ones. Crazy.
Yet, the fact is that companies with stronger diversity are healthier, stronger, and quantifiably more successful. BlackRock—one of the world’s biggest asset manager—sent letters advising companies with fewer than two women on their boards to diversify. Institutional investors don’t make decisions based on good feelings. BlackRock’s push was business-centric: Boards with multiple perspectives make sounder strategic decisions, leading to better outcomes.
Almost every business leader can attest to the benefit of fresh eyes. New hires come with different ways of looking at problems and finding solutions. Having leaders like Erika at the highest level of our company will help hold me and the senior leadership team accountable for making that happen.