Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Don't Underestimate the Value

I always like to see good things happen for Directors & Boards authors, especially when good things come in pairs. So congratulations go out to Bonnie Gwin on being named chair of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. Gwin is a managing partner of the executive search and leadership advisory firm Heidrick & Struggles International. Earlier in November came the big news that she was tapped to lead the firm's North American Board Practice.

"Over the last four years I have had the distinct privilege of serving as a member of the Make-A-Wish national board, an organization that brings hope, strength, and joy into the lives of countless children and their families each year," Gwin said upon the announcement of her new leadership post. "Being named chair of the board is both a profound honor and a great responsibility, one that I take very seriously. I look forward to this new challenge and to helping the Foundation continue its important work, as it enriches lives and fulfills dreams for those who need and deserve it most."

Quick cut to a corporate board pointer. In 2006 Gwin co-wrote with Heidrick colleague Anne Lim-O'Brien a substantial advisory on women on boards. We titled it, "So Many Public Companies, So Few Women Directors." Among the issues she addressed in this analysis of how to increase the number of women on corporate boards was The Nonprofit Factor. Here is what she had to say about that:

"Today women are more likely to win board seats in the nonprofit sector than in the corporate sector. But the women we met were fairly divided on whether their nonprofit work served as a springboard to corporate boards.

" 'I've been on nonprofit boards for 20 years, but that hasn't helped me get on a public board — it's not a direct path,' one woman said. However, many others argued that the value of serving on nonprofit boards shouldn't be underestimated.

"With more nonprofit boards being held to Sarbanes-Oxley standards and adopting a public company-like operating structure, the nonprofit sector could become another important feeder for public boards. In any case, we found that nonprofit board work was a tremendous source of personal satisfaction for the majority of women we met."

With her new commitment to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we have a compelling example of a consultant following her own advice. Congratulations, Bonnie.