Legacy of Racism

A recent conversation with my parents revealed a history of racism in my family, some of which I knew and some of which shocked me. The revelations spurred me to conduct further research which not only shed light on my family’s participation in the racism that has historically marred our country, but also helped me understand what motivates me to do the work I do: assisting CEOs in building inclusive boards. I will tell my family’s story here in the hope that it can play a part in defeating the racism that continues to plague our society.

On a visit with my parents, we were discussing my mom’s upbringing and multiple residences in St. Louis. She remembered the address of the home her dad built when she was a young child and I found the image on Zillow. That led to a discussion regarding her dad’s sister, Eva, who also lived in that house as a young adult. My mom’s Aunt Eva, who lived to age 104, was a member of, and spent her last years in a home run by, the Daughters of America, also known as DoA (and not to be confused with the Daughters of the American Revolution, or DAR). We used to get letters from her with the return address of National Home D of A, Tiffin, OH. According to Wikipedia, the DoA was established as the “ladies auxiliary” of the Junior Order of United Auto Mechanics (JOUAM), a youth subsidiary that broke off from the Order of United Auto Mechanics. The OUAM name sounds innocuous to me, like an auto workers’ labor union, but in fact it was founded in the mid-1800s as an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant organization.

The Daughters of America mission statement declared it to be a “patriotic fraternity, which seeks to aid in preserving and perpetuating the Public School system; to instill a spirit of patriotism into the youth of our land; to place our flag over every schoolhouse; to promote the reading of the Holy Bible therein; and to protest against the immigration of paupers, criminals, and the enemies of our social order.”

The DoA is noted to have been associated with the KKK in the 1920s, and admitted only white American women age 16 or over and JOUAM members. As recently as 1979, documents note that admission in the group was open to “patriotic, white male and female citizens of good moral character, who believe in a supreme being as the creator and preserver of the universe and who favor the upholding of the American public school system and the reading of the holy bible in the schools thereof…” If you have read the book or seen the film “The Help,” the DoA is the secret society to which the women and girls belonged.

I knew from genealogy records that my Irish-American relatives from the late 1700s had owned slaves. Excerpts of two family wills from Fauquier County, Virginia, include assigning “acres and slaves” to one son, “one Negro” each to a boy and two girls, and the remaining eight children received a “good suit of clothes,” “one riding horse,” or a “new saddle and bridle.”

Learning of the DoA’s KKK connection on top of the slave ownership in my family background was like getting pulled underwater, choking on sea water, coming up for air thinking all is okay, and then getting caught by the riptide and pulled underwater again.

The DoA’s white supremacist beliefs are counter to who I am, what I am about, and the polar opposite of the foundation of my work: helping CEOs who are building, growing or refreshing their boards of directors with an eye for inclusion.

I then revisited some of Aunt Eva’s old letters, and I found a few in which she revealed her racism. During her stay at a prior nursing home in St. Louis in the early 1970s, she didn’t like the “riff raff” that came to visit the black residents, and she complained of the home starting to put whites and blacks in the same room. She said if that happened to her, she would move, which appears to be one of the reasons for her relocation to the DoA home in Ohio in the late 1970s.

Our country has deep roots in racism, many years of a white supremacist culture, and inequality that persists to this day; we are all affected by racism in some way, whether we are privileged or not. Someone I know attended a workshop several years ago on white supremacy culture, and I found the material instructive on different ways racism both stealthily and blatantly manifests itself in our daily lives as perfectionism, individualism, fear of open conflict, discomfort with emotions and feelings, and other disheartening characteristics, several of which I regretfully experience within myself.

Would you be willing to join me in overcoming the history of racism in our nation? Below are a few small steps you can make:

• Hire, contract, work or volunteer with someone who doesn’t look like you;

• When there are two empty seats, take the seat next to the person who is most unlike you and initiate a conversation;

• Look your neighbors, fellow citizens and non-citizens in the eye, smile, say hello and take interest in how they are different from you;

• Access your empathy and use it.

Although our history is undoubtedly troubling, and there is still much work to be done, I take heart in seeing signs of progress in the arena in which I work, corporate board membership. The consulting firm Deloitte published a Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards, which declared: “There has been an increase in the Fortune 500 of African American/Black women board members by 18.4 percent since 2012.” Let’s keep increasing those numbers!

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies who want to build, grow or refresh their boards.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimclancy

 

All [A]board: Insights and Inspirations for Your Journey to and in the Boardroom

“When a company is trying to fill a board seat, the CEO and sitting board members often inadvertently default to their own immediate circle, and that pool and their ultimate judgments tend to tip toward finding sameness.” Kim Clancy (page 37)

Read the collective wisdom here as composed and published by Farella, Braun + Martel.

CEOs: How to Recruit Your Boss — Board Members Who Increase Your Bottom Line

Kim Clancy video interviews Penny Herscher on HOPTalks.

Hear the following take-aways:

*How to understand the role of the activist type investor.
*Learn the value of educating and networking one’s way including the use of a recruiter, onto a board.
*Hear how the diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, opinions lead to better board decision making.
*How stressing the importance of needing to see a diverse candidate range is the CEOs role.
*How a diverse management team is more successful at delivering better financial results.

CEOs: Show Your Vulnerability, and Win Over Customers and Employees

 

 I learned something recently about the value of vulnerability. Before I tell you the lesson, I’ll share a little bit about myself and my frame of mind as the lesson came to me. 

I live in San Francisco, and my family lives in Southern California. My mom has cognitive impairment that seems likely to turn out to be Alzheimer's disease, and as a result, she resists any kind of outside help. On one recent weekend, my mom was hospitalized, and I went down at the last minute and spent several days helping navigate that difficult situation. I was "on" the entire time I was there, and when I returned home, I was exhausted, stressed, anxious and irritable. 

I took sanctuary in my Sunday New York Times and serendipity led me to my lesson, which brightened my spirits considerably. I’ve been following the career of Cedric Bru, the CEO of Taulia, a maker of invoicing software, and was pleasantly surprised to see him interviewed in The Corner Office column, with the headline, "Trust from the Top Down." 

Cedric wore his heart on his sleeve in this interview. He talked about instilling trust in his employees by making it acceptable for himself, his management team and his staff to be vulnerable. He also shared personal bits of information. He told about how he grew up working in his family's vineyards in France. He said his experience as a rugby player taught him to trust his team. And he gave a powerful example of how he revealed his own vulnerability to his staff, telling them that he was going through a difficult time because he was separating from his wife. 

I now know enough about Cedric to feel a real connection. That knowledge makes me want to promote Taulia as a product and place to work. 

A few days later, I also read that Taulia had decided to use Xactly, a sales compensation data analytics tool, which will help the company establish a fair system for paying its salespeople, through competitive salaries and commissions. Xactly’s claim to fame is that it uses technology to help businesses give employees the right incentives, so their interests align with the company’s interests. Building a compensation plan with Xactly should help Taulia hire and retain the best salespeople possible. That’s smart business. 

Who wants to work with a CEO who candidly shares personal challenges, who recognizes you have to trust your team, and who wants his company to have the most competitive compensation for its sales team? I do; do you? 

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O'Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies who want to build, grow or refresh their boards with an aim for inclusion. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimclancy

www.hopllc.com 

Thanksgiving epiphany — respecting cultural differences.

My Thanksgiving this year was the typical blend of fun and stress, as I hosted a feast for an international crowd. And while I wasn’t exactly expecting any epiphanies, certainly not about how to respect people’s cultural differences, that’s exactly what I got — and I am thankful for it.

I live in San Francisco, one of the most liberal and welcoming cities in the world. My boyfriend was visiting for a couple of weeks. He lives in another country, where he was born and raised. He spent his childhood in a remote, mountainous village where his mother and grandmother cooked in a one-room stone home with a hole in the ground for overnight baking. He is now a chef at a famous restaurant in a metropolitan city. I grew up in Southern California where we celebrated Thanksgiving traditionally: with roast turkey and my maternal grandmother’s homemade gravy and mashed potatoes, and my paternal aunt’s famous pumpkin pie.

I have roasted turkey and hosted Thanksgiving only once before, several years ago. This year, my boyfriend and I were hosting 15 guests, who hailed from the U.S., El Salvador, Taiwan, Germany, Turkey, Australia and Ireland. I had a file with notes and recipes from my Mom and clippings from Gourmet magazine.

I struggled from the beginning. Maybe you have a fondness for your family traditions, as I do. I feel I am a good cook. I know I have strong opinions. As we started cooking, I found myself anxious and argumentative about how things should be prepared, most importantly the turkey. Let me I remind you, my boyfriend is a professional chef. However he had never roasted a turkey, so I assumed my family tradition and Gourmet magazine should supersede my boyfriend’s ideas regarding how to cook a turkey (as well as side dishes such as stuffing, which he also never made before). I should mention that I typically follow recipes like a hawk follows a gopher on a hillside, relentlessly. My boyfriend is more free-form. When he is asked to follow a recipe, he reacts like a kindergartner held back from recess, sullen and squirmy.

We had many push me, pull you conversations, particularly regarding the traditional dishes. I forced myself to let go on some things, but on others, I held my ground, such as bringing the turkey to room temperature before roasting. The preparation ultimately became about collaboration and compromise. The turkey turned out fabulous, and I learned a few new ways to prepare some of my other old favorites, and the guests — and my boyfriend and I — had a marvelous time.

The next day, I reflected on the irony that my work is promoting diversity and inclusion, and yet when I was confronted with differences from my own traditions, I was extremely challenged.

That’s where my epiphany came in. Take my Thanksgiving experience and consider how you might be challenged by cultural differences in your own organization. Here are three tips to guide you in embracing those differences and creating a more inclusive environment, even if that environment involves preparing for a holiday gathering:

1) Acceptance. Accept that you grew up with rules, preferences, traditions and routines that may differ from the experiences of other people.

2) Unlearning. Be willing to “unlearn” what you think you know to be true or right.

3) Dialogue. Transparently share the challenges you are having regarding the different or unfamiliar, particularly if there is something you hold dear, like family traditions.

I help CEOs who want to build or grow diversity and inclusion on their boards. The more I do this work, the more I am humbled by my own unconscious and conscious biases. For that, I am thankful.

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC).

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimclancy

www.hopllc.com

kim@hopllc.com

You Can Achieve Your Goals Without a Mentor or Sponsor

You may face adversity in life. You may think you need a mentor or coach to help you. You may wish you had someone sponsoring you in your efforts. Well, you can achieve your goals without any of those things. I want to share an inspirational story about someone who has achieved great success despite extreme adversity, a break with her coach, and an outrageous lack of sponsorships.

Have you heard of Claressa Shields? I have asked several people this question, and only one person said the name sounded familiar. She is a two-time gold medal winner of a male-dominated sport, boxing, yet she does not get the media attention she deserves. She won her first gold at the age of 17 in 2012, the first time female boxing was allowed in the Olympics, and she did it again this past summer in Rio.

I first learned of Claressa only by happenstance. I was in JFK airport eating a salad and sipping a glass of wine after a trip to Portugal where salad was difficult to find. (Wine was easier to come by in Portugal, but I was happy to find it at JFK as well!) I was happily settling into my meal and scanning the multiple closed-caption televisions for something of interest when Claressa and her coach caught my attention.

I could not hear the commentary, but I could feel the power, dedication, commitment and strength Claressa had. There was a tangible bond between her and her coach. I am not a boxing fan, but I watched as long as I could until I had to dash to my departure gate to head home to San Francisco. I jotted her name in Evernote and planned to research her further.

When I got home, I discovered a documentary about her, “T-Rex: Her Fight for Gold” and watched it on Netflix. Wow… Her story is so powerful. Claressa Shields has unyielding grit, commitment and determination. She started boxing at eleven years old, as a child in Flint, Michigan. Her father, who had been in prison when she was a young girl, prevented her from boxing before then. Her mother, who struggles with substance abuse, tried to maintain a home for Claressa, even if that meant Claressa slept on a bare mattress on the floor.

Claressa pursued her goals with tremendous dedication. Her coach would tell her to take a day off, but she would show up the next day at 5:30 a.m. to train before high school. That is commitment.

Her coach seemed like the nicest guy and a very talented mentor for Claressa. He had one notable flaw: he was controlling when it came to personal relationships. He had a rule that members of his boxing gym could not date each other. That may be fine in theory, but real life sometimes has its own ideas. Claressa became close friends and romantically involved with a teammate. They defied their coach and attended their high school prom together. Her coach lost his temper when he found out. It seemed to me he was projecting his own personal issues on her. He had divorced twice and didn’t go pro in boxing. I feel his control was also possibly sexist. I got the sense he did not want her to be distracted from future opportunities by getting pregnant or married.

Although she won a gold medal with him in London in 2012, she cut him loose before the 2016 Olympics. She was so committed to her sport that she went to Olympic training camp without a coach. She vigilantly trained herself, but she was eventually assigned an older, Irish coach whose approach to training was not aligned with hers. They ultimately reached a mutual understanding and, as you already know, she won her second gold medal.

After her first gold, she and her first coach thought corporate sponsorships would be rolling in. Claressa told one potential corporate sponsor how she loves beating people up. The sponsor, and her coach, advised her not to say that ever again. She could not understand why, but she agreed. Still, the sponsorship did not come to fruition.

I find myself randomly checking the Internet to see if she has yet signed any corporate sponsorships. I would love to see corporations signing Claressa to endorsement deals, but it does not appear to be happening. A friend noted that companies could hire Claressa to help young girls and her community by starting a boxing school, sharing her expertise and influencing others to excel as she did. Yet she still has not received the endorsements, sponsorships, fame and accolades she deserves.

Claressa is an inspiration to me because she overcame huge adversity, remained determined to succeed even without a coach, and came out on top smiling all the way through. The only time she wasn’t smiling was after her one and only loss. By the way, she graduated high school, another goal she wanted to accomplish, after her first gold medal and before her second.

Claressa is literally fighting to achieve her goals. I want you to join me in pursuing your goals with the tenacity of Claressa Shields!

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs of public and private companies attract and hire women and minorities to their boards.

www.hopllc.com

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