Board diversity provides important perspectives
Diversity among board members is important for companies, but prospective board members need to have a background and expertise to provide good insights. Janet Gurwitch, operating partner of Castanea Partners and board member of La-Z-Boy Inc. talks to Brandonomics about what she brings to the boardroom.
Robin: Hello and welcome to this edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies. I am Robin Tooms, Vice President of Strategy at Savage, and I’m here today with Janet Gurwitch, Founder and Former CEO of Laura Mercier Cosmetics. So, Janet, welcome back.
Janet: Thank you, Robin.
Robin: Well, I want to talk today more about your work on the board of directors for Laz-E-Boy. Why is it important for companies like theirs to consider women such as yourself on their boards?
Janet: I think diversity in boards is key for whatever brand you have. And at Laz-E-Boy they had an all-male board, and they actually added two women when I got on their board, which was in 2009. They wanted someone who had been in the C-suite, and I had been CEO of Laura Mercier. They wanted someone who was from a different region. Laz-E-Boy is based in Detroit, and they wanted someone – I was from Texas obviously. And they wanted someone who had been with a high-end retailer, and I had been with Neiman Marcus.
Robin: So a perfect combination there.
Janet: A good combination.
Robin: Well, for those trying to consider that leadership path, what advice would you give, just to get started?
Janet: If you wanted to serve on a public board, I would say first you need the same background that a man would have. You need to have been in the C-suite or be an attorney. Oftentimes they want someone who has been in that industry, so, you know, they wouldn’t put me on an oil company board, but I was in consumer products. I had a headhunter; I used Russell Reynolds, Steve Newton in Houston, who found this job for me. Also NACD, National Association of Corporate Directors, is a great networking group, and in Houston it’s a very strong chapter and it’s a great way to learn how to get on a board.
Robin: Okay, thank you. That is great advice to get started with. I appreciate you sharing.
Janet: Thank you.
Robin: Well this has been another edition of Brandonomics, an inside look at top brands and their marketing strategies.
Castanea Partners is a middle market private equity firm focused on investing in dynamic consumer brands, multi-channel retail and marketing services companies. The firm draws on the leadership, advisory and investing experience of its partners and professionals. http://www.castaneapartners.com/