Written by: Jonathan Sandville
President and CEO
The year 2021 was packed with significant dates. Some we celebrated. Some we’d rather forget. But when I reflect on the year, I think about two important dates in particular, both in the last quarter: November 26 and December 31.
The first of these is well known. On November 26, the World Health Organization officially announced the Omicron variant as an emerging, highly infectious version of COVID-19. This news cemented the changes most of us had assumed would be temporary adjustments in how we live, work, and socialize.
The second, less familiar date—December 31—was the official deadline for publicly held corporations headquartered in California to diversify their boards with directors from underrepresented communities. This includes individuals who self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native, as well as individuals that self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Assembly Bill 979 requires corporations with five directors to include a minimum of two female directors on their boards. Corporations with six or more directors must include a minimum of three female directors. Corporations that fail to file timely board member information with the California Secretary of State will face a $100,000 fine for the first failure to file and a $300,000 fine for each subsequent failure.
As I reflect on the unprecedented global shifts caused or intensified by Omicron in 2021, and the opportunities presented by laws such as AB 979, I am reminded of the importance of AABLI’s mission. The work that we do is essential to the advancement of racial, social, and economic equity. When we help develop governing boards that are more diverse and inclusive, we help open doors and broaden perspectives for everyone.
Over the last year, corporations and private family foundations—key players in the effort to make diversity and equity the norm rather than the exception—had an opportunity to take a look at previous strategies and to thoughtfully re-assess problems embedded within the workplace. AABLI is part of the solution to the problems faced by many organizations. We provide training and resources essential to advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within organizations, helping them to thrive as equitable and sustainable entities.
Some examples of this include AABLI’s partnership with the Weingart Foundation and Toyota Motor North America. AABLI has partnered with the Weingart Foundation to advance DEI for its grantees. We offered a holistic approach to the development of the foundation’s DEI strategies, enhancing organizational outcomes for the Weingart Foundation and 10 of their largest nonprofit partners. AABLI’s partnership with Toyota called for the creation of custom training to strengthen Toyota’s leaders at different phases in their careers. At the same time, we provided tools and resources that could be deployed in real-time to fortify the leaders’ professional development.
So November 26 and December 31 are the two dates that set 2021 apart for me. November 26 reminds me that change is constant, so we must adapt. AABLI’s Board Leadership sessions, for example, moved from an in-person to an online format when the pandemic made that necessary. We will return to in-person training when it’s safe, but we plan to be ready for the unexpected
The other date—December 31—reminds me, like the Sam Cooke song, that change is “gonna come.” AB 979 was not developed in a day. It took hard work. At AABLI, we work hard to bring about change. In 2022, we hope you will be working with us.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.