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Boardroom diversity continues to be a topic of conversation. Although it continues to be a slow process, the number of women securing boardroom seats is on the incline. According to 2020 Women on Boards, women hold only 6,034 board seats of 26,711 of the 2,982 companies on the 2020 Russell 3000 list; women hold 22.6 percent of the board seats among the nation's largest publicly-traded companies in the Russell 3000 Index. That is only a 2.2 percent increase from 20.4 percent in 2019.
Even with those statistics, there are women trailblazing in board governance that make it possible for other females to secure seats. Kelly Ford Buckley, a general partner at Edison Partners, serves on eight boards and invests in multiple companies.
Her board experience consists of eight private companies as an investor and two private companies as an independent director. Additionally, she serves on the board of trustees and board of advisors for a non-profit and the board of advisors for two Big 10 university programs. On the investor side, Ford Buckley's portfolio includes Bento for Business, Suuchi, observIQ, Kinetiq and ExecVision.
"My first exposure to corporate governance was as an operator inside a private VC-backed company," Ford Buckley states. "The board was composed of only investors. I attended every board meeting and worked with the CEO to prepare everything from quarterly updates to presentations around acquisitions and investment rounds. Outside of garnering board support for our plans, though, I remember what mattered to me most was understanding board member sentiment on the business, how could they make us better, and how I could engage them productively both inside and outside of the boardroom."
Ford Buckley's 20 plus year career in high-growth emerging and established B2B and B2B2C began at Lotus (IBM). Throughout her four years at the company, she was tapped for three distinct and newly developed roles that no one held before. One of those positions was in a startup organization focused on creating a more repeatable and higher quality solution and sales model for Lotus Professional Services. She continued throughout her career to hold positions at organizations that no one had ever held.
Not all positions turned out how she had planned. While at one company, due to strategic differences, Ford Buckley was let go from her post. She then linked up with former colleagues at SundaySky. Here she established the company as a leader in the personalized video market and contributed to the three times revenue growth year after year.
"Being pushed out of a company shook me to my core, not only because it was a first, but primarily because I was afraid it would be a black mark on an otherwise strong professional and reputational record," Ford Buckley humbly explains. "Interestingly, two years later, I would have that experience to thank for the most pivotal move made in my career, transitioning from operating in tech companies to investing in them. Edison Partners was the lead investor in the company that fired me in 2012 and, in 2014, I became a Partner at the firm."
While starting at Edison, she was introduced to TechUnited, a non-profit that Edison is a founding member of and an organization that empowers innovators, instigators and entrepreneurs in New Jersey. She was the driving force that recruited its CEO, Aaron Price. As a board of trustees and board advisor, Ford Buckley has assisted in the company's growth and impact and the expansion of its innovation festival, Propelify.
Most recently, Price testified to the NJ State Assembly Appropriations Committee in support of the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (A-4/S-3295). One of the Bill's benefits is the Evergreen Fund, which is expected to grow to $500 million. It allows entrepreneurs to raise money more efficiently, incentivizes the growth of venture capital in New Jersey, and incentivizes large corporations to invest in programs that support the growth of the innovation economy.
"Primarily, 2020 was about rebuilding the organization," Price explains. "This year is more about growth and execution. We do have some initiatives, where I hope that we can surface more of the actual members of the community, specifically with a focus on gender diversity. A lot of people talk about 'I'd like to have a woman speaker. I'd like to have a Black person speak or be on my board. Who should I reach out to?' Our goal is that TechUnited will establish part of our services as a go-to solution to help people diversify their advisors, team members and speakers."
As Ford Buckley continues to serve as a role model for up-and-coming women board members, she focuses on the following essential steps:
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