Grainger Hosts The ELC’s 2016 Q4 Corporate Board Initiative Event Featuring Chairman James T. Ryan

Publications/News & Insights/Blog/Grainger Hosts The ELC’s 2016 Q4 Corporate Board Initiative Event Featuring Chairman James T. Ryan


More than 70 ELC members, Grainger executives and Chicago-area business leaders gathered for “The ROI of Corporate Board Diversity” — the final installment of The ELC’s 2016 education series for executives interested in corporate board service.

The (ELC) held its 2016 Q4 Corporate Board Initiative (CBI) Panel Discussion and Networking Reception on Thursday, October 6th. The event was hosted by W.W. Grainger, Inc. at The Metropolitan Club in Chicago, IL. The panel featured a candid conversation with Grainger Chairman James T. Ryan, and ELC members Brian P. Anderson, one of Grainger’s African-American board directors, and Joseph High, Grainger’s Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer, who served as moderator. The discussion focused on Grainger’s global inclusion and diversity journey that has been integral to driving the company’s business success.

Mr. Ryan commented on inclusion and diversity being at the heart of Grainger’s company strategy. “Our approach has been to weave it into the very fabric of our company, from our recruiting processes which demand diverse candidate slates, to leadership expectations, and mentoring and development of diverse talent and business resource groups by senior executives,” Ryan explains.

When asked why there remains such a lack of progress for the representation of blacks in the boardroom and C-suite, the panel responded one of the most significant barriers is exclusion from the networks and conversations that open the doors to opportunity. “CEOs and nominating committees tend to consider candidates who look like themselves or those who are already a part of their networks,” replied one audience member. “Even leaders who are passionate about building inclusive cultures can inadvertently allow unconscious biases to shape their behavior which often times excludes black executives from the equation.”

Prior to the panel discussion, ELC President and CEO Ronald C. Parker delivered opening remarks and welcomed ELC member David Nichols, Principal, Advisory Services at EY as a new multi-year sponsor of the Corporate Board Initiative. Darrell Guy, Vice President, Associate General Counsel at AT&T was on hand to deliver closing remarks on behalf of AT&T, also a multi-year CBI sponsor.

Attendees later continued the discussion regarding the challenges and key strategies for increasing boardroom and C-suite diversity during the post-event networking reception.

One of the strategic goals of The ELC’s CBI program is to increase the number of board seats held by global black executives at Fortune 500 companies by at least 200. To date, ELC members have secured a total of 131 corporate board seats since the CBI program launched in 2011.

The ELC’s CBI program is designed to prepare black executives for service on corporate boards. It builds awareness, improves readiness and enhances the visibility of ELC members who are interested in and actively pursuing board service. The Chicago event is one of four quarterly CBI events that took place in 2016, including events in Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco.

(L-R) CBI Chair A. Louis Parker, Retired Corporate VP, GE; Founder, CFO, COO, Visible Men Academy; ELC member Joseph High, SVP & Chief People Officer, Grainger; James T. Ryan, Chairman, Grainger; ELC member David Nichols, Principal, Advisory Services, EY; ELC President & CEO Ronald C. ParkerBrian P. Anderson, Board Director, Grainger; and CBI Chair Billy Dexter, Partner, Heidrick & Struggles

(Middle) Joseph High moderating “The ROI of Corporate Board Diversity” panel discussion featuring (L-R) James T. Ryan and Brian P. Anderson

Marc Howze, Vice President, Global Human Resources, Deere & Company participating in the Q&A portion of the CBI event

ELC members and guests enjoying the post-event networking reception

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