Dr. Caprice Young is an experienced transformational executive and superintendent with proven leadership in board governance and C-level roles. Raised in a foster family, she has committed her life to improving education for underserved students just like her foster brothers and sisters. She is the former National Superintendent of Lifelong Learning, a non-profit organization serving schools responsible for 49,000 opportunity youth students in five US states.
Dr. Young’s leadership experience spans multi-state and international operations, instruction, technology, finance, philanthropy, educating high-need students, and organizations undergoing major transformations. She is an EdTech expert and the former CEO of a subsidiary of a publicly-traded Fortune 500 company. She received the Coro Crystal Eagle for Excellence in Public Service, the California State University Los Angeles Educator of the Year award, and membership in the National Charter School Hall of Fame. Dr. Young serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Fordham Foundation, the Larta Institute, EverDriven, and Olivela.com. She is the former president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education (1999-2003) and the founding CEO of the California Charter Schools Association.
See her advice for other women on the search for board opportunities:
Dr. Young, what is the greatest piece of advice you have received on your journey to the boardroom?
Don’t worry that you may not have learned everything you think you need to know before you do it. Men don’t do that. Men figure, ‘well, I’ll learn as much as I can, in order to get into the role, and then I’ll learn on the job.’ And I think that is something that women need to do more of, too.
Tell me about how you landed your board seat for EverDriven.
The board seat that I’m in is actually a perfect match. I saw the listing through Women in the Boardroom, and it said we were looking for somebody who has technology, transportation and education… I can tell you those three things do not generally come together, but that happens to be my resume! I started out my career working in public transportation as a budget director for a large transportation entity, and then I’ve been in technology and education since then, so it was just a perfect match. There’s no way that I would have known about it, if it hadn’t been for Women in the Boardroom.
I think that Women in the Boardroom has done a really good job of connecting the firms that need independent board members. I think there are a lot of us who would love to serve on board seats and have gotten training in how to do it well, but don’t necessarily have the connections. So Women in the Boardroom is able to serve as a really good connector. It takes an enormous amount of personal time to cultivate those relationships, and I think a lot of times what’s happening is that these board seats come up, but you just have to be in the right place at the right time, talking to the right people. Fortunately Sheila is who she is, and she’s the one that’s focused on identifying these opportunities and matching up these board opportunities with those of us who are interested in serving.
Like you said, Women in the Boardroom is an excellent connector. What else have you gained from your VIP Membership?
The webinars have been really valuable over the time that I’ve been involved with Women in the Boardroom. I think the most valuable webinars that I’ve been to have actually been groups of women — some of whom are on boards and some of whom are not yet on boards — comparing notes and saying this is how I did it, this is what you might want to do. Or here are some of the challenges that come up and here’s what you need to do to be well prepared. And here’s how to be taken seriously. Working to get a board seat is just not the same as applying for a job. It’s a very, very different process, and it’s a different role, too. One of the things that I’ve learned through Women in the Boardroom is the difference between leadership and governance.
Can you elaborate on the difference between leadership and governance?
Sure, as a board member you’re not doing the work. I’m governing. So the CEO does the work, and he or she manages the work, and the Board is responsible for the strategic vision, and the integrity and the growth.
What would you say to someone who is considering joining Women in the Boardroom?
There is probably a great board seat out there for you, but unless you join Women in the Boardroom you know you won’t know it’s there, and they won’t know the assets that you bring to the table.
I’m just really thankful for the work that Sheila and the team do to find the board opportunities for women to become board members. And also to provide the brass tacks support that we need to really do it well, and to make the companies that we’re governing as successful as they can possibly be.
The nice thing about Women in the Boardroom — especially for women who haven’t done this yet — no matter what age they are, there are women who can mentor each other and who you can ask a question without worrying about whether or not it’s a ‘stupid question.’ And people will point the way towards not just who to ask, but also what to read, what to study, and what to learn. You can’t learn all those things just by getting an MBA. Most of these things are more subtle and are much more complex, or are so far ahead of the curve that they haven’t begun teaching them in MBA schools yet.
Why do we need more women in the boardroom?
The proof is showing that having women on boards makes a big difference in terms of the actual financial success of companies. There have been studies that show, for example, that 85% of the major financial decisions in a household are made by women. We know our own consumer groups, to a large extent, and that makes a difference. There is something that comes with having the input and perspective of someone of a different gender.
Do you feel like you’re making a difference in the world as a board member?
I am the ESG chair on my board at EverDriven. So, part of my role on the board is making sure that we’re doing everything we can in terms of the environment and social and governance issues to make the company as profitable as possible.
EverDriven is a phenomenal company. I’m so pleased to be part of it because we transport the neediest, most vulnerable young people to school every day. These are folks that can’t go on the school bus. They’re in special Ed, or they are homeless, and we get them to school every day. So, we get to make a difference in the lives of young people, a difference that the company and all the staff can feel very proud of.
And one of the things that’s super exciting to me is that corporations all across this country, and truly globally, are actually a path to doing good in the world. And that’s not what I was raised to believe. But one of the things that Women in the Boardroom has allowed me to see up close and personal, and behind the scenes, is that corporations can do a lot of good in this world — and are doing a lot of good in the world. Profitability is tied to their ability to create both financial and social value. And that’s I think that’s very exciting.
Anything else you’d like to tell other women who will read your story?
Being a board member is a lot of work. It’s not something where you just show up to the meeting and leave. You have to show up having done your homework, having read and understood the financials and how they tie to the business choices and strategic issues that you’re going to have to address as a board. But it’s worth it.
If you’re ready to start your journey to the boardroom, join Caprice and thousands of other business women who have found success as a VIP Member of Women in the Boardroom.