Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dear HP board: I'm available (still).

In today's New York Times, James B. Stewart walks us through the mechanics (here) of why the HP directors who have made some abysmal decisions were re-elected. 

If boards want to bring on people with different experiences (and that's a big assumption), then they're going to need to figure out a way to find those people.  They're not going to find them on the boards of other public companies.  They need to ask their search firms to be more creative in locating possible directors.

There are all sorts of people that those search firms could find.  Academics who write about governance or about the industries of those public companies are a good start.  But I'm sure that the search firms could cast their nets more broadly in all sorts of ways.

I've been interviewed for one public company's board, asked to interview for another one's board, and invited to interview for a private company's board.  In two out of the three cases, the search firm indicated that it was interviewing me for a "diversity" seat.  (In the third, I think that the company was hoping that I'd join the board and stop writing about it.  Sorry, Enron.) 

I'm not valuable to a board because I'm female.  I'm valuable to a board because of my study of why some very smart people have found themselves doing dumb things.  I'm valuable because of my thoughts about executive compensation.  I happen to be female, and I'm sure that my socialization as a middle-class, well-educated female might bring some new perspectives, but that's not why I'd be useful to a board.

Non-profits are comfortable putting me on their boards.  So, to those search committees looking for new blood, here I am.