Topics:   Corporate Social Responsibility,Leadership

Topics:   Corporate Social Responsibility,Leadership

September 24, 2019

Five Boards Take Top Prize for Diversity and Inclusion Practices

September 24, 2019

General Mills, Ryder, Amalgamated Bank, GuideWell Mutual Holding Corp., and Novant Health were recognized for their leading diversity and inclusion practices on Monday evening at the second annual NACD NXT Recognition Gala.

Hosted by NACD in collaboration with Deloitte, CACI, Heidrick & Struggles, Semler Brossy, and USAA, and emceed by award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, the celebration capped the third day of the 2019 NACD Global Board Leaders’ Summit in Washington, DC.

“Diverse boards can enliven and even change the conversation,” said O’Brien. “Diversity matters—if you take advantage of it.”

This year, 40 companies applied to be considered for the award, attesting to

  • how their board defines and measures the success of diversity and inclusion objectives,
  • how their board implements practices to align board composition with those objectives and ensures that the board remains fit for purpose in overseeing these issues,
  • how their board remains informed in their oversight of diversity and inclusion,
  • how diversity and inclusion initiatives permeate throughout the company and into the surrounding community, and
  • how diversity and inclusion have spurred innovation and driven quantitative or qualitative business results.

The wealth of information submitted was almost overwhelming, with essay responses and supporting documentation resulting in some 300 pages of material that was evaluated by a panel of 17 highly esteemed members of the director community: Irene Chang Britt, Paula Cholmondeley, Martin M. Coyne II, Ann M. Danner, Cari M. Dominguez, Brenda J. Gaines, Daniel R. Hesse, Reatha Clark King, Lester L. Lyles, Ellen A. Rudnik, Jeff Sakaguchi, Kathi P. Seifert, Sonya F. Sepahban, Suzanne M. Vautrinot, Keith C. Wetmore, Paul S. Williams, and Dona D. Young. They ultimately selected winners in the following categories. (Please note: the reasons for selection given below are not comprehensive.)

Large-cap public company category winner: General Mills. This multinational organization was selected because the board has made diversity and inclusion a priority by setting the tone at the top and building a diverse and dynamic board that represents the interests of their shareholders, consumers, and employees. The board oversees the company’s programs and monitors their progress. The CEO and senior leaders have performance objectives tied to the board’s diversity and inclusion efforts, helping to drive home the importance of the program. Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer, and president of the General Mills Foundation, accepted the award on the board’s behalf. “To be successful, our products, marketing, management, and board need to reflect our customers,” Melendez said.

Mid-cap public company category winner: Ryder. This company demonstrated that it has championed diversity throughout their community with initiatives such as the Ryder Small Business and Supplier Diversity Program, which provides more opportunities for companies certified by the Small Business Administration to work with Ryder. The board is also a founding member and partner in Women in Trucking, an association dedicated to developing and promoting innovations that improve ergonomics and make truck driving safer and more accessible for women. Hansel E. Tookes, lead independent director, accepted the award on behalf of the company. “We believe in human capital and people make it happen,” Tookes said. “Diversity of thought and experience mean everything to getting successful outcomes.”

Small-cap public company category winner: Amalgamated Bank. The Amalgamated board understands that diversity and inclusion objectives begin with the board and extend throughout the organization that they govern and its community. For example, in 2018, Amalgamated became the first nongovernmental institutional investor to expand the definition of board diversity to include LGBTQ individuals. Maryann Bruce, director at Amalgamated, which was founded 96 years ago, accepted the award. “Diversity means strength, Bruce said. “It means being a better partner to our customers. It is why we think Amalgamated is well positioned to serve for the next 96 years.”

Private company category winner: GuideWell Mutual Holding Corp. This company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives permeate the organization and exemplify the company’s corporate values of respect, integrity, imagination, courage, and excellence. The GuideWell board is committed to supporting the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts, including programs that serve minority and lower-income populations and the development of a scorecard to annually gauge company performance. “The strides we’ve made—and we have more to go—are consistent across the board,” said John B. Ramil, chair of the GuideWell board. GuideWell has also developed and implemented workplace gender-transition guidelines and has educated more than 175 managers and all employees, resulting in an increase in the number of employees disclosing LGBTQ status on an annual employee-engagement survey. “What makes me proud is that we can stand up and exercise our values and idea of courage,” said GuideWell board member Patrick J. Geraghty.

Nonprofit company category winner: Novant Health. This board was chosen for the clear support, engagement, and prioritization of diversity, inclusion, and equity given to the organization. In just three years, the impact of Novant Health’s diversity, inclusion, and equity journey has generated a 22 percent increase in measured team-member engagement results, validating that team members feel a sense of belonging and feel valued. “I’m really honored because the board embraces diversity and the community wholeheartedly,” said Carl S. Armato, president and CEO of Novant. It was, however, a close competition. Each of the companies was considered because the organization had a compelling story to tell about how they encourage new ways of thinking for the benefit of the enterprise and the stakeholders it serves. We encourage you to consider the full list of nominees and explore how teach of them approached diversity and inclusion issues.

For more information about the NACD NXT initiative, tools, and additional resources pertaining to diversity and inclusion oversight, visit A call for nominations for the 2020 NACD NXT Recognition Awards is slated to open early next year—so please watch this space and your email in-boxes for more information.