I was sitting on the floor at home with a fire roaring in the fireplace, a glass of Paso Robles Midnight Cellars Syrah, my Border Collie, McDuff (& his ball) and some articles highlighted for various ideas I have for writing topics. One of the articles was about Film Director Catherine Hardwicke's new film, "Miss You Already" about lifelong best friends - it caught my attention, because of the title, "Director fights Hollywood gender gap." My mind segued to my best friend, Dorothy in Eugene, Oregon, a masseuse and safety professional and how during a massage this morning (my first after a 2 year hiatus), I got emotional thinking of how I needed to book a flight to go hang with her - it is long overdue.
Then my mind again segued to my work regarding helping tech companies attract women to their Boards and the people I have met in the process over the past year. I started recounting in my head individuals I met and really connected with who I genuinely love. Of course, in my job I tend to meet a lot of women, and there are a few who deeply touch my heart after one meeting. In the past few months the woman I met who touched me the most deeply is a renaissance woman looking for her next job. I met her primarily regarding Board opportunities, but we talked about life and we had many commonalities (even without those we were simpatico). She is a connector like me and rattled off several people she wanted to introduce me too, including a CEO who recruited her to two huge tech companies. She said I had to meet him.
I looked him up on LinkedIn and I was intimidated. He has run two HUGE toy/gaming companies and has a character in a film based on his real life. He was extremely responsive and congenial in coordinating our meeting. He said he could meet me after an investor meeting near the Embarcadero ports. A resourceful friend who works in that area recommended a cafe with outdoor seating. It was a cold day in the fall and he was already seated at a table with his coffee when I arrived. I ordered my decaf double short Americano and sat down to talk. He was "mature" in appearance with professional attire. He had the brightest, warm, welcoming blue eyes. I was immediately comfortable and our conversation flowed. He told me about the Boards he is on and his work in the education space. He said he likes consumer products and tech; he said education (as an industry) is hard. He also talked about being on a startup biotech Board and that he is not sure why they want him or what value-add he offers since he never worked in biotech (I hear that a lot from Board members).
I don't recall the exact segue, but at some point I mentioned playing music and singing as passions of mine. He mentioned he grew up in a desert state with a working class father, sang in the boys choir and two very famous singers attended the same school and were his friends. His school’s choir was notably better than the Vienna Boys Choir and appeared twice on the Ed Sullivan Show.
At this point, he told me a story about how he had the opportunity to meet George Lucas and visited his home in Marin. There he ran into his now very famous female singer childhood friend and he said, "What are you doing here?" and she said, "What are you doing here?" They hadn't seen each other since school days in the desert. At that moment as he was recounting the story the CEO’s eyes became misty – I could feel his genuine, heartfelt sentiment for that moment when he randomly ran into his childhood friend. He "had me" early on in our meeting with his comfortable, articulate, easy-going nature, but in that second where he was overcome with sentiment, I thought this is why this man is a successful CEO and why he is at ease hiring talented women executives (& continuing to recommend them for jobs and Boards).
This is why I have the best job in the world. I often feel like Terri Gross of NPR. I get to meet amazing women and amazing men. These days white males are getting the bad rap for being the majority on Boards and C-Suites. I feel so lucky to have met this particular white male CEO – a Renaissance man who is hiring and recommending women for jobs and Board seats and who continues a successful career into his golden years. Kudos to you Mr. CEO for being authentic and successful; thank you for inspiring me to continue the work I do placing women on Boards.
Kim Clancy is Founder & CEO of executive search firm, Hampton O'Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps technology companies attract women and minorities to their Boards.