Two NACD panels recently tackled issues surrounding sexual harassment in the corporate setting, and how directors should act and react to issues that could have profoundly negative impacts on company reputation and workforce satisfaction.
Key takeaways for directors ranged from careful CEO hiring to board composition. The following concepts could be readily applied to your own board’s conversation about overseeing this risk.
Aggregate Data to Spot Problems Before They Happen. Given that the board is ultimately responsible for overseeing company culture (including a culture that tolerates sexual harassment), the board should work to mitigate risks rather than taking up sexual harassment issues once a problem has surfaced, according to Michael Aiello, chair of the corporate department at Weil, Gostshal & Manges LLP. Lucy Fato, executive vice president and general counsel for American International Group (AIG), stated that boards should aggregate information to get the full picture, including:
Internal audit findings related to culture;
Employee relations/human resources reporting, including hiring trends, turnover statistics, and reports from exit interviews;
Hotline reporting, including whether there are too many or too few complaints; and
Company legal settlements and insurance payouts.
Board members should also probe whether the company’s investigative processes are fair and thorough.
Go the Extra Mile in CEO Hiring. In light of the board’s primary role of hiring and firing the CEO, along with the fact that fallout from CEO misconduct can significantly impact shareholder value, a board should take steps to ensure that its candidate of choice does not have a history of sexual misconduct or even tolerance for a culture in which harassment is an open secret. According to Sabina Menschel, president and chief operating officer at Nardello & Co., to really know who you are hiring into the corner office, conduct an investigation that includes public records, social media, and supplemented standard reference checks. With regard to CEO hiring, Fato stressed, “Ethics, integrity, and how you carry yourself as a public figure should be a factor in whether you can lead the brand.”
Risk Starts at the Top. The CEO and senior management are not alone in the potential spotlight of the #MeToo movement. Board members also must be vetted fully, and once in place, board members should receive code of conduct training, just as employees do, said Fato. In addition, the board should pick one corporate policy per year on which to do a deep dive as part of its oversight duties. Tabletop crisis preparedness exercises also should be conducted.
Superstar? Irrelevant. A board may face a difficult choice if a superstar CEO is found to have violated the company’s code of conduct, fearing that a dismissal could impact short-term shareholder value. According to Brenda Gaines, director, Tenet Healthcare, Southern Co. Gas, and NACD, superstar status is always irrelevant when investigating misconduct. She suggests that the board should take action to remove an offending CEO and then have a separate conversation about revenue and valuation implications. She added that the company must be clear about its culture and key principles, and should have zero tolerance for misconduct, applied to everyone in the company equally. “Board members have to keep each other honest,” she said.
Expand the Company’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Framework. Sexual harassment should be a part of each company’s ERM framework, given that fallout from a misstep can be quite severe, emphasized Fato. Also, when doing employee surveys, ask specifically about harassment issues. To do so demonstrates that the company cares about these issues, said Menschel. Also, in terms of monitoring potential issues with long-tenured employees or even board members, consider updating background checks at regular intervals, stressed Fato.
Diverse Boards Matter. The #MeToo movement will have an impact on the boardroom, as well as on investor relations, according to Renee Glover, director, Fannie Mae, Enterprise Community Partners, and NACD Atlanta. Indeed, large shareholders are asking about diversity on the board, and they may request sexual harassment policies and pay equity measures. Gaines emphasized the clear-cut nature of the need for more diverse boards. “Diversity is good business,” she said, “and we are nowhere near where we should be. We need more gender diversity and more people of color on boards. Don’t miss this in the search for skill sets.”
Find an Ally. Rochelle Campbell, manager for board recruitment services at NACD, says that she encourages boards to have at least two diverse members on the board, as such boards tend to be more successful. For women and people of color who are new to a board, they can play an important role in discussions about sexual harassment and equal pay for equal work. When asked for practical advice for new board members, Gaines shared best-practice approaches to oversight of misconduct:
Get the facts right.
Take the emotion away.
Look for an ally on the board.
Glover summed up the issue: “We can do better. And when we do, we can get on with realizing the deeper value that a diverse board can deliver.”
Kimberly Simpson is an NACD regional director, providing strategic support to NACD chapters in the Capital Area, Atlanta, Florida, the Carolinas, North Texas and the Research Triangle. Simpson, a former general counsel, was a U.S. Marshall Memorial Fellow to Europe in 2005.
Champions of business women have been honored each year since 2001 by the prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum with its Aiming High Award. Stephanie Drescher, global head, business development and investor relationship management at Apollo Global Management, is one of three honorees this year.
The seventeenth annual Legal Momentum Aiming High Awards were presented at a luncheon on June 15 in New York City.
In addition to Drescher, this year’s award recipients are:
Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and winner of the Man of Distinction honor
Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president, president of the Time Warner Foundation, and chief diversity officer of Time Warner
Economics and psychology might seem like an unlikely academic pairing for a Barnard College undergrad, but it was a natural combination for Stephanie Drescher—and one that helped inform her career. By applying the analytical aspects of economics with an understanding of what drives collaborative work environments, she developed a keen sense of how to achieve optimal results within complex organizations.
Drescher has since distinguished herself as one of the most successful women in the global private equity industry. After spending the first 10 years of her career at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in a variety of roles, including serving on the boards of the firm’s private equity and venture capital businesses, she joined Apollo Global Management in 2004, heading the firm’s business development and investor relationship operations.
Founded in 1990, Apollo currently has $197 billion in assets under management, and Drescher has played an influential role in building the firm into the financial powerhouse it is today. Drescher recently reflected on her career and role as a mentor in a telephone interview.
How did mentorship position you for success in the financial sector?
Early on in my career, I saw many examples of women who were in leadership positions, and they were great role models for me. That was certainly one element of being able to see a path forward. Equally as important were men who throughout my career have served as mentors and sponsors. These people came to know me quite well and were crucial in helping guide me as I developed professionally.
One key piece of advice I received early on: think of yourself as the CEO of your own career and have a board of directors you can reach out to for advice as you encounter new challenges. That framework is one that I often share with others as they set out in their careers.
How does Apollo cultivate a collaborative atmosphere?
The first thing that comes to mind is our investment committee. Everyone is invited to contribute. If you are the most recent addition to the investment team, or you’ve been there since day one, everyone sits around one—now very big—table to discuss the investments. It’s a very deliberate way to create an opportunity for everyone to learn from one another, and evaluate each opportunity from different perspectives.
I think it’s a testament to the strength of our firm that we’ve been able to maintain such a productive, collaborative atmosphere even amid our tremendous growth. When I joined, we had fewer than 100 people and managed around $15 billion. Roll forward to today, and we’re managing upwards of $200 billion with more than 1,000 people on staff. Our core culture remains the same, which enables us to deliver best-in-class performance to our global investor base.
In your experience, are investors pressing more on diversity and inclusion issues?
It’s certainly a topic of increasing interest and conversation with our institutional investors. They have many choices as to where they invest their capital, and ultimately, they want to work with firms that are focused on doing their part in terms of diversity and inclusion.
How is Apollo working to fortify talent pipelines internally and in its portfolio companies?
We are proud of a number of initiatives that we started at Apollo. In 2014, we launched our veteran’s initiative, which encourages Apollo and its portfolio companies to recruit, hire, and retain veterans and their spouses. That has been a great success.
We also recently launched the Apollo Women’s Empowerment initiative, which I co-chair with our global head of credit. We have spent a great amount of time developing a steering committee with a number of initiatives to allow for development of our women networking, and engagement with industry groups, external leaders, and the community.
How do you serve as a mentor to young women?
It starts with a commitment to engage with the wider community, which is very important for all of us at the firm. A specific area of interest for me has been my involvement with the Young Women’s Leadership Network. It’s a group of all-girls schools in underserved communities that prepare their students for college. I think it’s just another way of ensuring that as we rise in our own careers, we look to lift those around us by serving as mentors, sounding boards, and role models.
Champions of business women have been honored each year since 2001 by the prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum with its Aiming High award. Lisa Garcia Quiroz, senior vice president, president of the Time Warner Foundation, and chief diversity officer of Time Warner, is one of three honorees this year.
Lisa Garcia Quiroz
The seventeenth annual Legal Momentum Aiming High Awards will be presented at a luncheon on June 15 in New York City.
In addition to Garcia Quiroz, this year’s award recipients are:
Stephanie Drescher, global head, business development & investor relationship management, Apollo Global Management
Brad S. Karp, chair, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and winner of the Man of Distinction honor
Few people in the workforce can claim that they have worked for the greater part of their careers helping to advance women in their workplace. Garcia Quiroz counts herself among the privileged few. When asked about the role that the women in her working life played in her own career development, she said that she owed much of her success to women who reached back to pull her up along with them.
Before moving to Time Warner’s corporate offices and taking on this new position, she served as the founding publisher of People en Español, a position she earned after proving herself as the founding publisher of Time for Kids.
Through her work at Time Warner, she has always placed a priority on amplifying diverse story tellers’ voices. NACD is honored to amplify her voice and to celebrate her leadership along with Legal Momentum. In a recent interview, Garcia Quiroz reflected on her role within a company of storytellers.
What is your approach to setting diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility strategies at Time Warner?
I will tell you that all of the initiatives that I work on at Time Warner have a definitive thread going through them—this idea of diversity and inclusion (D&I)—but for me, I felt it was really important to root it in the business of the company.
I don’t take that commitment lightly. I don’t mean what’s the business case for diversity and share that with my colleagues. No. I first ask, what does diversity mean for a media company? What are the most important outcomes that can come out of a robust diversity effort at a media company? Then, how can we be sure to integrate those principles into the core of this company? Our company is a company of storytellers. We create content. Bearing that in mind, what I did was develop a diversity portfolio that set goals that were very much in line with a company that had its success inextricably linked to talent.
How has being a woman shaped your opportunities to lead through your career? How have mentors helped you along the way?
I would say that most of my significant opportunities were as a result of a woman reaching back and pulling me up with her. For example, Ann Moore was the legendary head of People magazine and went on to become the CEO of Time Inc. Ann was an incredible mentor of mine. She’s still a terrific friend and was the person that gave me the opportunity to be publisher of People en Español. What’s significant about that is that, honestly, I got that job probably five to seven years earlier than I should have, but she believed in me and gave me the type of support and mentoring that I needed to ensure that I was successful in that role. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.
Everybody has big moments in his or her career. I think choosing to do Time for Kids and getting the funding for it was a way of getting noticed in a place where perhaps you wouldn’t be noticed as quickly being a young woman of color.
When I came here to corporate, I worked for another terrific woman named Pat Fili-Krushel, who was also a fantastic boss. It’s unusual—in 27 years I’ve worked mostly for women. When I was growing up at the company, that typically wouldn’t have been the case.
You were on the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which funds national service programs such as AmeriCorps*VISTA and SeniorCorps, from 2010–2015. You also served as chair for nearly three years. What motivated you to serve on this particular board?
I was struck by the chance to give people—young and old—the opportunity to serve in communities that they had never known about before. Consider sending someone from New York to the rural south for a year of service at a nonprofit, or sending a young woman from Alexandria, Virginia, to East Los Angeles, or to southern Texas. This is an important opportunity for Americans to really develop a sense of empathy, community, and understanding for what it means to be American. When we live in our little enclaves, it’s very hard to get a sense of that, even in a place like New York City.
A lot of young men and women have a similar experience in the military because they’re serving alongside people that come from all sorts of different locations. [Ret. U.S.] Army General Stanley A. McChrystal talks a lot about the fact that in the military you bring people together from all walks of life to experience and grow with others you may have never encountered otherwise. He points out that now, as our military shrinks, we should be doubling down on other forms of public service as a way to create a sense of greater understanding and appreciation for this country. He has asked whether there is a way of making national service almost mandatory. While this program has enjoyed bi-partisan support in the past, the programs funded by the CNCS are now under threat. Perhaps we should be thinking about how to create more opportunities for young people instead of diminishing them.