You Can Persist Through Tough Times By Reminding Yourself Everything Is Cyclical

By Nina Zipkin

In this series, Open Every DoorEntrepreneur staff writer Nina Zipkin shares her conversations with leaders about understanding what you have to offer, navigating the obstacles that will block your path, identifying opportunity and creating it for yourself and for others.

At the rate we’re going, women would achieve parity on corporate boards in more than 35 years, according to a recent study. As recently as last year, Fortune 500 boards were 79.8 percent male. But tech industry veteran Sukhinder Singh Cassidy wants to see a solution sooner.

In 2015, Cassidy launched the BoardList with the mission of creating a platform that would connect women leaders with broad opportunities in the tech industry. With the support of 900 CEOs, senior executives and venture capitalists, to date, more than 1,400 senior women leaders have been nominated by their peers through the Boardlist to serve on private boards in the U.S., Europe and Canada.

Female Entrepreneur Whys

Cassidy got her start at Amazon, co-founded financial services startup Yodlee and spent several years at Google overseeing the company’s Asia Pacific and Latin America operations. She then served as CEO of shopping platform Polyvore and founded another company, an ecommerce startup called Joyus. She is currently a board director at Ericsson and TripAdvisor.

With just a glance at Cassidy’s resume, it’s clear that she has had a successful career in Silicon Valley, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing. She has seen what is lost when there is not a diversity of voices at the table.

“I think there is a moment in time right now, where everybody recognizes the severity of the problem of gender parity — not just inside of tech but outside it as well,” Cassidy says. “For the first time in my lifetime, I’m seeing a number of different platforms and approaches that use technology to solve the problem.

There are platforms around talent, around boards, around entrepreneurship, in seed funding for women [that] can accelerate the rate of change. That’s an exciting thing to witness and be a part of.”

Why Did You Want To Start theBoardlist?

The genesis of starting theBoardlist was frustration with the lack of solutions with regard to the problem of women in tech and gender parity. Several VCs had come to me and asked for my thoughts on how to help on diversity and tech.

I had been brainstorming with one of them and come up with the idea of putting a woman on every series B board and beyond. I’d had that conversation as early as 2014 and I was fairly frustrated that it was a great idea and nothing happened with it. So a year later, I started the Boardlist and built it myself.

One of the biggest positives of the Boardlist is it invites men and women leaders to participate. It’s not a shaming product. It says look, if you want to help, you can simply do so by nominating a great woman you know for a board. Here’s something you can do in five to 10 minutes. It has resonated deeply with men and women business leaders — no one says no to participating in the Boardlist.

What Are Some Of The Challenges theBoardlist Has Faced In Getting Up And Running?

The number one biggest challenge we still face is that most early stage founders don’t prioritize putting an independent on their board, because they’re just too busy. Even though it could really help them grow the company. The second obstacle — and I think we’re seeing the result of that today in situations like Uber — is historically, private companies don’t value corporate governance. It seems like overhead.

We only ever see the negative side of corporate governance, when something goes deeply wrong and [then the question is] why didn’t the board know? Or shouldn’t the board have been more involved?

But as a culture, I think we have long valued innovation and creativity, which is awesome. But with entrepreneurs, we tend to place less emphasis on management and governance and best practices. When it doesn’t work out, that’s when everyone talks about corporate governance. We don’t really embrace it as an opportunity. [For founders], instead of thinking about all the downsides of the board, think about it as an opportunity, way before a crisis [hits].



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