theBoardlist: Diversity Solutions from the Top Down

In July of 2014, CEO and co-founder of online shopping startup Joyus, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy launched a new initiative at Fortune’s Brainstorm conference in Aspen and her goal is simple: to close the gender gap in the tech industry.

Singh Cassidy launched the Choose Possibility Project, which includes theBoardlist, a database comprised of vetted, qualified female industry professionals who have been nominated by startup founders, investors and executives. The aim: to make the gender ratio amongst board members for up and coming tech startups more equitable and to increase opportunity for women in tech. Thus far, theBoardlist has partnered with 50 members of the tech industry, including 18 venture capitalists, to help the project succeed.

Singh Cassidy hopes that the accessible nature of theBoardlist will undercut the excuse that many tech leaders use when trying to diversify their board: that there are a limited number of qualified female candidates that they have exposure to. According to a 2015 Catalyst Report, only 20% of total board seats for S&P 500 companies are occupied by women and only 14.2% of those boards are approaching gender parity (having 30%+ female representation).  In a podcast with USA Today, Singh Cassidy shared that “the core thesis of theBoardlist was that if you increase supply it makes supply easy and the discovery of great women candidates easy, that we will draw demand… On that measure we feel really good because we look at the pipeline of demand and see that it’s growing.”

The database itself is already comprised of over 1300 women who are backed by over 1900 industry leader endorsements and the hope is that with the increased accessibility to these candidates there will be a positive change in leadership for the tech industry. Although the industry still has a lot to accomplish for gender equity for their employee demographics, Singh Cassidy believes that focusing on the boardroom could make a substantial impact. “There is in fact a discovery problem,” she said, adding that “this is access to talent, not about filling some quotas,” as diversity efforts are often mistaken.

Interested in learning more? Click here or here to read more.

Interested in joining the project and becoming a part of theBoardlist? Click here.


An earlier version of this article was previously published on the Women in Biz Blog for Women Impacting Public Policy on July 17th 2015