This article by Scott Chase was featured in the Directors & Boards Annual Report 2014 and highlights some of the VIP Members of Women in the Boardroom. Click here to access the original ‘Directors to Watch 2014’ article.
Activism, as many directors have discovered, comes in many different varieties. For some, aggressive shareholders disrupting annual meetings, pushing inconvenient votes, or requesting sensitive information are at the perigee of one-share-or-more owner empowerment. For others, activism in the digital age has taken a different form, with agitators sometimes having no stake whatsoever in the targeted company itself, but rather in an ideal or a cause that affects the boardroom and often the company’s reputation.
Boards that pay lip service to the concept of gender diversity but take no easily discernible action to achieve it have come under the microscope of groups that seek to drive inclusion. Such is the case with Monster Beverage Corporation, which earlier this year was criticized for recommending a vote against a board diversity proposal. The 2020 Challenge, “a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020,” authored by 2020 Women on Boards, led the charge on this effort, demanding that the company “comply with California Resolution 62 and add at least two women” to its board. While denouncing the energy drink bottler, 2020 Challenge at the same time showered kudos on the boards of PepsiCo, Inc. (36% women), Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. (33% women), and Coca-Cola Company (24% women).
Board and CEO search firm Heidrick & Struggles two months ago released the results of research on gender diversity that The Washington Post opined blended good news with bad. Here’s the good news: Bonnie Gwin, vice chairman and managing partner of the executive recruiter’s North American board practice and frequent contributor to Directors & Boards, said, “Corporations are bringing women onto their boards of directors in increasing numbers. That will result in greater diversity of thinking and, ultimately, better governance and wider-ranging strategic insights.”
And here’s the bad: Despite a greater appreciation for the benefits of diverse insight, research by Gwin’s team shows that current rates of movement on corporate board composition indicate that women will hold half of Fortune 500 board seats for the first time 28 years from now in 2042. But, Gwin, noted, there are a number of fairly recent developments that could accelerate this March.
Sure to be part of the process will be groups like Diversity in the Boardroom, WomenCorporateDirectors, Boardroom Bound, and dedicated executives and professionals like the ones profiled below in Directors & Boards’ ninth annual class of Directors to Watch.
Challis Lowe, Director of Seaway Bank & Trust
Challis Lowe is a top human resources executive and seasoned corporate board director with more than 20 years of senior management experience within global public companies and with the nation’s largest tax-exempt health care system.
She is a highly skilled business partner and board director with expertise in the areas of strategy development, corporate governance as both a board director and as a company executive, director recruiting, CEO succession, CEO transitions, executive compensation strategies, M&A due diligence and integration, CD&A, and proxy development. Lowe provides strategic counsel to the CEOs and boards she has served and has established herself as a partner leading cultural, operational, and organizational change. She has developed and provides oversight on key corporate structures and processes that facilitate turnaround, transformation, improved business operations, and revenue growth.
For the past decade, Lowe has worked for multibillion-dollar organizations where she has been a vital executive team member for companies experiencing either rapid growth where her expertise in governance, formalized strategies, and best practices has been critical to ongoing growth and returns or in leading national and global turnaround initiatives that have repositioned these organizations to achieve improved performance and returns for shareholders. During this same time, and while serving on corporate boards, she and her fellow directors recommended and oversaw several significant events, including the development and execution of a CEO succession plan, the negotiation of CEO compensation, and the successful sale of a $14 billion U.S. bank to an international, Canadian-based diversified financial services firm.
Lowe serves on the board of Seaway Bank & Trust and is a member of the executive committee and chair of the compensation committee. She also has served on the boards of Prairie Holdings Corp., South Financial Group, and the Kenwood Mutual Fund. Her nonprofit boards include Fisk University, the Gaylord & Dorothy Foundation, and other organizations.
Linn F. Freedman, Director of Roger Williams University & Roger Williams University School of Law
Linn Foster Freedman is an attorney, group leader, former deputy chief, Department of Attorney General, and a nationally recognized expert in the area of privacy and data protection. With a focus on privacy and security law, health care law, HIPAA compliance, and complex litigation, Freedman is an adviser to a variety of public and private organizations in need of developing strategies to mitigate risk.
Freedman is sought after by organizations ranging from start-up to Fortune 100 companies and across a variety of regulated and nonregulated industries. Working at the most senior levels, she focuses on establishing measures with an enterprise approach that protects stakeholders and helps them develop defensible and reasonable approaches to regulatory requirements and data breaches.
Since 2007, Linn has been the leader of law firm Nixon Peabody’s Privacy and Data Protection group. Freedman offers stewardship related to legal, compliance, and brand risk during a data breach.
Freedman is a member of the board of directors of Roger Williams University and Roger Williams University Law School, Rhode Island Business Group on Health, and is president of the Foundation for Rhode Island Day Schools, along with other state commission assignments. She also serves on the advisory board for Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology and the New England Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Sharon Egilinsky, Founder & CEO of SRE Solutions LLC
Sharon Egilinsky is a financial services leader who has developed, led, and executed complex business initiatives involving business reorganizations, distribution strategies, mergers and acquisitions, creative joint ventures, and other forward-thinking business associations across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Egilinsky is CEO and founder of SRE Solutions LLC, where she advises business leaders, entrepreneurs, and industry-leading C-level executives in strategic direction and development.
Highlights of Egilinsky’s career include positions as the head of strategy for Credit Suisse Asset Management, head of global transition management for Citigroup Global Markets, and global head of product development for Deutsche Asset Management.
Throughout her career, Egilinsky has worked in collaboration with boards and executive committees on matters related to enterprise and brand optimization. Using a risk-reward model, Egilinsky has made the business case and executed the strategies for explosive growth, establishing herself time and again as a high value ‘intrapreneur.’ Examples of her achievements include restructuring of products and services, target markets, and distribution strategies impacting over $50 billion in assets for the Americas division of Credit Suisse, developing the strategic direction and creating a new portfolio restructuring business model for Citigroup Global Markets, achieving a market leadership position in 18 months, and evaluating dozens of M&A opportunities and developing top-down bottom-up acquisition and integration plans that have proven very successful for companies such as Credit Suisse Asset Management, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Deutsche Asset Management, and Bankers Trust.
Thanks to Directors & Boards for giving us permission to share this article. The opinions and experiences expressed by the author or subjects do not necessarily reflect those of Women in the Boardroom.