On A Personal Note

. . . from Elizabeth Ghaffari, President/CEO of Technology Place Inc. and the founder of Champion Boards.

You probably want to know more about me and why I'm investing my time and energies to advocate on behalf of women taking leadership positions on boards of directors in the 21st century. Fair enough.

First, you will find some biographical material about me under Resources, on the home page -- including my Governance Experience and my background as a technology consultant to business at my own firm, Technology Place Inc. since 1989.

What is My Background?

I grew up with the enthusiasm of Felice Schwartz, founder of Catalyst in 1962; Emily Card, who established the Equal Credit Act of 1974; and other women of courage including those who fought many years ago for the passage of Title IX which is celebrated today by articles that we take for granted about the High School Female All-Star Basketball players.

For my part, I established the Corporate Board of Directors and the initial committee structure of the L.A. Leggers - the premier marathon training organization, operating successfully for over a dozen years in this city and named as L.A. "Best Marathon Training Program" by L.A. Magazine -- twice!

I worked with corporate boards of firms, such as Prudential Realty, to upgrade their board of directors' skill sets to deal with the challenges of the emerging Internet economy.

I worked with non-profit corporate boards to bring "best business practices" into their strategic operations: the Women's Economic Development Corporation, Lambda Alpha International in Chicago, Los Angeles, and London.

Most recently, I served on the Board of Directors of Women In Business Inc./Los Angeles. I was a member of the Advisory Committee for the Entrepreneurial Training Institute at Pacific Coast Regional Corporation, a small business development corporation, until 2009. At that time, I was invited to join the Board of Directors of the Small Business Development Corporation itself, where I currently serve.

I was part of the steering committee of NAWBO-LA and Boardroom Bound when we organized the Southern California panel focused on Women: A Board of Opportunity. For Women in Business/Los Angeles, I organized another panel of governance experts to tell women about the competencies required to serve on boards of directors in the post-Sarbanes-Oxley environment. (Is There A Board In YOUR Future?) I continue to be a guest speaker and lecturer at many area women's conferences and educational panels where the focus is on how women can pursue board roles, successfully.

To build this knowledge base about women on boards, I conducted the 2004 and 2005 Surveys of Women on California-Based Fortune 1000 Corporate Boards of Directors. The 2006 Survey provided a special focus on the six unique paths the "Women of the West" have followed into the top corporate boardrooms in this state. This became the foundation for my book, Outstanding in their Field: How Women Corporate Directors Succeed (published in June 2009 by Praeger/ABC-Clio).

During the past 4 years, I've focused on the changes made to the business investment community in response to the leadership challenges and ethical and professional opportunities created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of July 2002.

I have a Master of Science degree in Management from UCLA, with a major in Urban Land Economics. I completed the inaugural class of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Education, Corporate Governance Program in May 2003. I participated in the Galef Symposium "Corporate Governance and Equity Offerings" at UCLA Anderson School of Management (February 2004). In April 2004, I served as a Judge for the semi-final round of the Knapp Business Plan Competition at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Why Women on Boards?

My research and my work, as well as that of many other governance professionals, shows that there is a difference when there are more women at the top, inside the board, looking at the total corporate strategy and asking probing questions, such as:

  • What does the corporate succession plan include?
  • Who is next in line for our top leadership roles?
  • Are we preparing our diverse resources to take on top profit and loss challenges?
  • Who is moving up? When?
  • Are we doing enough to identify the best talent among 100% of our people?
  • Are we managing our human resources risks effectively?

If my investment or my consumption dollar, as a female, is as good as every other investment or consumption dollar for a given company, then why would I see only "token" representation of diversity in the boardroom?

If we only have half of the company asking these questions about only half of the company's resources, are we doing the best possible job as a business? Are we doing the best for 100% of our shareholders?

What To Do?

It's up to you. Are you willing to take the steps necessary to become part of tomorrow's leadership? You have to be willing to learn. You must have a strong ethical foundation. You have to have the time to serve. You have to pursue the opportunities -- not merely wait to be invited to the ball. And finally, you have to decide if you care enough to make a difference.

And that is why I have decided to spend some time promoting, advocating, and encouraging women of conscience to step up and make the right decision. Because it mattered to me, over the past 40 years, that some women -- like Felice Schwartz and Emily Card -- cared enough to try to make a difference.

And I think I owe them something in return. What about you?

Elizabeth Ghaffari, for Champion Boards