The recent racial injustices of 2020 left many organizations admitting there is much work to be done in terms of building truly diverse and inclusive leadership pipelines and ensuring equality for all. The AAE, too, felt this sense of sheer urgency. We therefore are fast-tracking changes which were already in progress, as we find ourselves pressing down the accelerator of a vehicle already in motion – and that is our Board Composition and Structure Project, which I will elaborate on in this President’s Message.
Back in November 2019, the Board approved moving forward with utilizing Association Management Center (AMC) as consultants to lead us through a Board Composition and Structure Project.
The AAE conducts an annual Board self-assessment, which measures the Board’s performance in setting direction, ensuring resources, providing oversight, and board structure and operations. The AAE’s Board has consistently rated its Board composition measure at the low end of the rating scale in comparison to other measures. “Board composition” rates the Board’s performance in ensuring capacity to effectively govern and lead, and examining composition and noting gaps in areas of diversity such as expertise, ethnicity, age and gender. In addition, this measure asks the Board to consider its performance in identifying and cultivating Board members, using an effective process for nominating and electing Board members, planning for officer succession, and effectively utilizing the skills of individual Board members, among others.
The AAE Board and committees have dedicated much discussion to the importance of increasing the diversity of the Board, in terms of age, expertise, ethnicity and gender, to achieve Board representation being more reflective of the demographics of the membership as a whole. One result of these discussions has been the creation of a Leadership Development Program which is geared at identifying emerging leaders who are new practitioners and providing them with a foundation upon which to build leadership experience within the AAE, through information, engagement opportunities, and skills-based training.
Our Constitution and Bylaws Committee is currently working in partnership with experts at AMC to identify changes in the AAE’s leadership structure and selection processes with the goal of enhancing the AAE Board’s effectiveness and diversity.
The project began with a thorough review of AAE governance documents, followed by a workshop with the Constitution and Bylaws Committee geared at reviewing best practices, clarifying the project charter, gaining a firm understanding of the current processes in place for selection of Board members, and outlining a desired state for nomination practices and Board composition.
Following the workshop, and with the committee’s guidance, AMC interviewed and surveyed members engaged in AAE’s governance process to gather insights on AAE’s current method for selecting leaders.
The Constitution and Bylaws Committee is considering the results of the research, AAE’s organizational culture and history, as well as industry best practices, to address Board composition and selection, and plans to share its preliminary recommendations with the Board this fall. Its process has been and continues to be guided by the following principles:
- Balanced and diverse input
- Thoughtful, qualitative oriented
- Deliberative and inclusive
- Phased-in approach
We have set out to: create efficiency of the Board’s work; develop balanced leadership: skills, experience and representation; hear all voices; engage all career stages of membership in the governance process; and move toward a competent, diverse, equitable and inclusive (DEI) Board.
We are on the fast track to making vast improvements, and we will be sure to keep you apprised of our progress.