Achieving Equality One Step at a Time

You never know where inspiration will strike or what form it will take. I was surprised to find myself getting a valuable lesson in equality, and taking my own small step to fight bias, at Dreamforce, the massive technology conference sponsored by Salesforce that took over San Francisco’s Moscone Center in early October.

I was not the typical Dreamforce attendee. I went because I wanted to hear one of my personal heroes, Congressman John Lewis. I had read his graphic book, “March: Book One” (co-authored by Andrew Aydin and fantastically illustrated by Nate Powell) earlier this year and was moved to tears by his raw, humble accounting of his painful experiences during the civil rights movement. He shares his history from childhood through his adult years, including being inspired by and meeting Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rep. Lewis was joined by tennis legend Billie Jean King and Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, on a panel titled “Equality Summit: Road To Equality Through Business, Sports & Government. Pattie Sellers, executive director of Fortune Most Powerful Women Summits and Live Content at Time, Inc. and a three-decade veteran of Fortune magazine, moderated the discussion. (You can see the panel discussion here.)

For me, John Lewis was the anticipated and real highlight. Billie Jean King was a nice surprise and Bernard Tyson was a breath of fresh air. Part of John Lewis’ history includes leading protesters on the infamous bridge in Selma, Alabama; he was the first to be struck by a police officer, a blow which resulted in a concussion. He has been arrested 40 times or more for civil disobedience and said he anticipates more arrests. He cannot be silent if he sees injustice. He said, “Leaders must lead.”

Billie Jean was lively, genuine and heartfelt. When asked how she felt after she was outed in the early 1980s, she paused and said it was devastating. She was about to retire and counted on advertising sponsorships for her future livelihood. They were all retracted the next day. She was one of the original proponents of equal pay in tennis, which came to fruition in 2007. To this day, tennis is the only sport with equal pay for men and women in its marquee events. Billie Jean said professional athletes are in an influential position and must speak out.

Bernard was admittedly humbled by being on stage with John and Billie Jean. He chuckled when it was his turn to tell his life story, saying he didn’t feel on par with the other panelists. He said he joined Kaiser to effect change in the disparities of medical care. He garnered attention for posting two articles on LinkedIn about Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri and about the striking difference between how he is treated in his C-Suite, top floor office and when he leaves the building and heads onto the streets of Oakland.

In addition to hearing those inspiring speakers, I had a personal experience at the event that I’d like to share with you. Arriving more than an hour before the panel began, I was guided to a section with a side view of the panelists’ chairs. The rows of seats were filled until about eight rows back, where a young black woman sat in the end seat. The seat next to her was empty and a diverse, young group filled the rest of the row. I asked the young woman if the seat was free but it was not. She was part of the group and they were waiting for a friend to join them. The next row was mostly empty, with a young white woman in the end seat. The row after that was also mostly empty; a black woman in her 30s or 40s was seated on the end. I could feel myself drawn to sit in the row with the white woman, and if I’m being honest, I don’t think it was just because it was the next closest row to the stage. It was because I could feel the comfort of seeing someone who looked like me. I pushed past that and asked the woman in the next row if the seat next to her was free. It was, we got to talking, I learned she is a software engineer living in Oakland. We chatted about Dreamforce’s U2 concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco the night before which I could hear from my home. When she shared her dilemma that her phone battery dies at critical moments such as these, I volunteered to save her seat while she went off to charge it. She left and trusted me with her belongings. She returned when the panel was in process and soon thereafter received a text message and suddenly had to leave to catch a ride with her husband. A missed opportunity for a business connection, but our brief interaction left me feeling warm, calm, and uplifted.

My intention is to continually, consciously connect with people of color to acknowledge and step away from my comfort zone, which I believe is my unconscious bias rearing its ugly head.

I want you to step out of your comfort zone as well. Throughout your day, wherever you go, reach out to someone who is not like you. It may seem like a small step and it is. Not every step has to be with John Lewis across the bridge in Selma. Small steps evolve into big steps. I look forward to the day when we will be sprinting towards equality.

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

Intersectionality Lessons From a Teenage TV Star

Teenage actor Rowan Blanchard has been speaking out about intersectionality on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. I learned about Rowan in Interview magazine’s April, 2016 issue, which noted, “At only 14, the native Angeleno Blanchard speaks, tweets, and writes with ease, confidence, and urgency — on everything from intersectionality and the politics of feminism to the elitist girl gangs of social media.” One word in there caught my attention. What the heck is intersectionality? The article discussed it as if I should know what it is.

I looked it up on Wikipedia, where I learned that intersectionality theory came to fruition in the 1960s and ’70s as an outgrowth of the feminist movement. Black women were experiencing bias differently than white women and they started speaking out about it. They felt an intersection of their being female and black, the “interconnectedness of seemingly disparate forms of inequality.” (Stand, 2016)

Intersectionality is something I probably should have learned about in college as a Social Ecology major, but I don’t recall anyone talking about it at UC Irvine at the time.

The word came up again in a San Francisco Business Times article about executive leadership for the LGBT sector, part of the newspaper’s annual Business of Pride issue in June. I was happy to see intersectionality being discussed, but I was dismayed to learn about Stanford University’s new LGBT executive leadership program. In my view, programs like that are telling LGBT people they need to change, rather than blaming the discriminatory attitudes that have kept LGBT people from climbing the corporate ladder. However, I was inspired to learn about how UCLA, which revamped its LGBT executive leadership program after a dozen years to reflect the importance of intersectionality. The new program is a multi-dimensional leadership institute. Alissa Brill, managing director at UCLA’s Anderson Executive Education, said participants hear “about more filters being stripped away in the workplace and that makes a huge difference in company culture.”

Rowan Blanchard provides living proof of the value of thinking about intersectionality, as well as of the way the world has changed for the better in my lifetime. Rowan recently publicly identified as queer, which I thought was a bold move for a young, female star of the Disney television series Girl Meets World. I grew up near Disneyland and remember how rigid and exclusionary it was. My sister worked there in high school and I was appalled at the dress code that required women to wear nylons, as well as skirts or dresses of a certain length. I also recall that in the ’80s Disneyland did not allow gays to dance together. The company gradually changed its tune over the years and I understand today The Walt Disney Company is one of the best employers for the gay and lesbian community. I was happy to learn the 60-year-old American institution from conservative Orange County, where I grew up, is now inclusive.

That sort of intersectionality, on both the personal and corporate levels, continues to make an impact, expanding our horizons of how we view the world. With that more comprehensive view, we can be more inclusive, make better decisions, and achieve greater success.

Are you a CEO or nominating governance committee chair looking to establish or expand your corporate board with individuals of diverse race, culture, gender, background, age/generation and thought? Let’s work together to make intersectionality work for good.

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

Email: Kim(at)

Monday Monday

Do you dread Mondays? You may think that means you’re in the wrong job. More likely, however, you simply need to change your approach to that infamous day.

Recently, I realized I was lamenting Mondays starting on Sunday evenings. I was feeling that I never had enough time on the weekend to do everything I wanted to do. I intended to play my guitar and harmonica, write a song, Skype with my boyfriend, talk or hang out with some friends, take my Border Collie to Crissy Field, do laundry, buy groceries, cook a nice meal, watch a film, read a book and/or news, do a bit of work, write, and relax. I could only ever get through a portion of my plan before Monday rolls back around. Ugh!

As a way to ease into my work week and overcome my ambivalence (read: dislike) for Mondays, I always tried to keep my Mondays unscheduled. However, I soon realized the free Monday wasn’t working for me. My open schedule only left me feeling unfocused and grumpy. In talking with a friend about my business, I mentioned how motivated I am by the executives I meet regarding board opportunities. In that moment, a light bulb went off: I should schedule meetings on Mondays with people who inspire me! And wouldn’t you know, it worked like a charm!

Here are four things you can do to cure yourself of the Monday blues:

    1. Do something that inspires you. I make the first appointment of the day an in-person meeting with someone I am excited about, preferably someone I have never met before.
    2. Plan your day. Leaving my day open and unplanned left me unfocused. Use a daily planner to map out and set an intention for your day and week. To make the day really great, list your accomplishments throughout the day!
    3. Make someone’s day. As a recruiter, I have found that most people are like me and are disgruntled on Mondays, so those are the best days to call them to consider a different opportunity. People are more receptive to new offers to help get out of their funks.
    4. Get grounded. Try a short meditation, even just three to five minutes, either before or on your way to work. You will feel clear-minded and rested. A couple of apps I use that help me get clarity are the Saake Buwalda Mindfulness App andHeadspace, but I’m sure you can find a similar app to use.

Let’s make Monday the new favorite workday by anticipating the possibilities the work week can bring.

And if you are a CEO or you serve on a corporate board’s nominating governance committee and you are looking to establish or grow a diverse, inclusive board, I would love to schedule a time to meet with you this Monday!

Kim Clancy is Founder and CEO of the search firm Hampton O'Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP,LLC). She helps technology companies attract and hire women and minorities to their boards.

Email: Kim(at)

LifeSci Advisors’ Gender Bias Fix is Part Right and Part Wrong

If you think LifeSci Advisors has made adequate reparations after the company’s gender bias gaffe at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco in January, you should think again. In an outrageous display of sexism, LifeSci Advisors, a biotech investor consultancy, hired “leggy female models in tight, black dresses” to appeal to attendees at a party taking place at a conference whose demographic is mostly male. The company received plenty of well-deserved criticism for treating women as mere sex objects. To try to make things right, LifeSci Advisors took some steps to promote professional women in biotech. According to an article by reporter Ron Leuty this month in the San Francisco Business Times, “rather than hide behind mea culpas, the New York-based company is putting time and money behind a program with the nonprofit Women in Bio to prepare more women for biotech board positions.”

LifeSci Advisors is trying to fix its PR problem, but it got it WRONG. The idea that “women can’t serve on boards because they lack training” has got to stop! I am not against education regarding sitting on a board. However, men have been placed on boards for eons, and continue to be, without ever having to go through any prep course. Women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community are being held to a different standard than straight white men. It is insulting.

An oft-cited reason for the lack of women on boards is the limited number of women in CEO or C-level positions. Yet many male board members do not come from the C-level suite. Companies bring plenty of academics, senior vice presidents, and the like onto boards without expecting them to complete any preparedness courses or training. The LifeSci Advisors/Women in Bio training program will cover topics such as corporate governance and financial literacy. Not all men walk onto boards with corporate governance knowledge or financial literacy skills, yet no one expects that they need board readiness courses.

No one tells men what it takes to be on a board; saying that women need training shifts the problem back to the women. It is not women’s fault that they don’t have board experience. It is because companies have excluded them from serving on boards in the first place.

What LifeSci Advisors gets RIGHT is recognizing that women need to “break into new networks.” Women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community need to strategically place themselves in environments where they will connect with CEOs and nominating governance committee chairs. If LifeSci Advisors and Women in Bio can facilitate those connections, they will be on the right track. To really make an impression as a viable board candidate, you need to secure those meetings yourself. For advice on how to do that, please see my article, “Make That Meeting Happen.”

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

Email: Kim(at)

Make That Meeting Happen

Although I am by nature an introvert, I don’t let that stop me from being brave. I have made a career out of connecting people via executive search for board opportunities, and I often need to approach people who are seemingly inaccessible. Through that process, I have learned that you can network with anyone you choose, particularly if you have an overwhelming interest, a burning curiosity, and a genuine desire to connect.

Early in my career, I worked as a secretary for a law firm in San Francisco. I persuaded the firm to let me work four days a week so that I could have time to pursue my dream of breaking into the music business. On Thursdays, I worked a volunteer internship with IRS/Nettwerk Records, and I also represented an LBGT singer/songwriter for whom I wanted to find a record deal. I hoped to find work someday as an artist and repertoire (A&R) manager.

I took a trip to Italy and Austria for vacation and decided to use the opportunity to make a music connection. I found an A&R guy at BMG (Bertelsmann Music Group) in Austria and scheduled a time to meet. I was hoping for a job for myself or a record deal for my singer/songwriter, but alas, I left empty-handed.

On the Luxembourg to Reykjavik leg of my flight home, I started a conversation with the man sitting next to me. He said he was Turkish, so I asked if he knew Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary Turkish-born music executive who founded Atlantic Records and signed Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, among many other famous artists. He said, "He is my cousin." Wow!

That nugget of information simmered inside my head until I got home. I decided to write to Ahmet in New York City and tell him about meeting his cousin. I asked for a meeting so I could promote my singer/songwriter. Not long after mailing my letter, I was sitting at my desk at the law firm when my phone rang. It was Ahmet himself. I had a billion butterflies in my stomach and a massive smile on my face. He said he received my letter and was curious about the man I met, because he didn’t have such a cousin. How embarrassing! Yet Ahmet was completely gracious and apparently impressed with my bravado, for he agreed to meet with me.

I planned a trip to New York and booked a lunch with Ahmet in his office. We sat down to talk over sandwiches. We were briefly interrupted by Doug Morris, who was co-chairman and co-CEO of Atlantic Records at the time and today is CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Ahmet and I talked about the music business and my San Francisco artist. He talked about one-hit wonders; he had had high hopes for Mark Cohn, who never had success beyond his smash, "Walking in Memphis." He felt my artist might be a one-hit wonder and was not willing at that moment to sign her. He gave me some advice and we parted ways.

While the meeting did not result in accomplishing my initial goal, I am so grateful I mustered up the bravado to have my meetings in Austria and New York; if I hadn’t, I would always regret it. I learned many valuable lessons from the experience, the main one being to take those seemingly small, fleeting moments when there is a connection and run with them, immediately, without hesitation. I apply these lessons in my work today and help my clients incorporate them in their networking activities.

After a couple other internships and a rejected job offer for a record label, I never made that segue to professional work in the music business. I actively pursue my passions in that regard via songwriting, singing, and guitar and harmonica playing. A meeting with another record label executive may still be in my future to sign my own record deal!

Is there someone seemingly inaccessible you would like to meet? If so, you need to:

1) Listen to what your body and mind are telling you. What is the key motivator to meeting this person? What is the desired outcome?

2) Research the hell out of the individual and find what emotionally connects you to them. Maybe you can find common ground. For example, did you graduate from the same university?

3) Use your initiative and make a connection. Start with people you know, and comb your online networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Use anything to build momentum towards your goal. Snail mail is rare and still works. A nice letterpress notecard can make someone’s day – I use Paperwheel.

Now dig deep into that emotional connection you found –– that is your differentiator –– and use your tenacity to make that meeting happen!

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

Email: Kim(at)


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.


There is a great scene in the Margaret Thatcher biopic, Iron Lady, when "Maggie" is contemplating a run for office and her two male political cohorts (all the cabinet members were male at the time) try to convince her she can win. She tells them how she feels she doesn't fit in, to which one of her cohorts proclaims "If I may say so - I think that’s your trump card."

What struck me while watching that movie is how Maggie felt she didn't fit in with the all-male cabinet in the 1970s and here we are in 2015 with so many women and minorities feeling the same way regarding Board of Director seats, C-level positions and sometimes entire industries (yes, I’m looking at you, gaming). 

In the Bay Area and probably the world over, we know the slogan, "Think different." It is Steve Jobs’ singular message for success. And yet, when it comes to women on Boards, somehow this message is getting lost, particularly in tech and other Silicon Valley sectors. Many of us in the recruiting industry are striving to change that, not because of some nebulous concept of fairness, but because the companies we work for need diversity in their executive suites and boardrooms to remain competitive.

When working with public and private technology companies to attract women and minorities to their Boards, I am now deeply averse to creating fancy charts with check marks for education and skills. In the past, headhunters have been told, "This is what companies want and expect!"  When I asked CEOs and seasoned Board members what they need in order to appreciate my diverse candidates, I learned they prefer the subjective narrative; they want to know the person they are getting.

For me to share the most qualified candidates with them I needed to showcasetheir differences and more importantly, I needed to be authentic. It wasn’t about showing the stakeholders how my candidate was exactly like everyone on their Board, it was about sharing the value a diverse candidate will bring. When solving a complicated problem, who would you rather add to the team – a fifth Ph.D. from the exact same school and background as the four you already have, or someone whose perspective is so new and fresh she can think of solutions that wouldn’t occur to anyone else in the room?

If you are a diverse candidate for a Board seat, you need to see your difference as an advantage.  You may get sucked into believing you need some specific background; you may be told you need training to be on a Board. Is there some secret knowledge white males intrinsically have? For some reason, they are not expected or required to get training to secure a corporate Board seat.  

Are we teaching women and minorities to be just like the majority Board members (typically, white males)?  If so, that throws the intention of diversity, equity and inclusion out the window. Anyone can get training before, during or after securing the first Board seat, but nobody needs it to get there.

Here are three tips to secure that first Board seat, and beyond:

1) Position yourself - spend time with CEOs and individuals already on Boards. Ask them to consider you for Board opportunities. Let them know your value-add and strategize your career by adding skills and perspectives you don’t already have (e.g., P&L experience on the job, etc.).

2) Be willing to take risks, make decisions, and defend those decisions confidently. As author, Valerie Alexander, explains in How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”), risk taking and quick decision-making are highly valued in corporate organizations, going back two million years when, in the face of great uncertainty, the hunters of the tribe had to throw the spear to kill the wooly mammoth or the tribe didn’t eat. We reward risk, we admire leaders; we value the one who puts out the fire much more highly than the one who prevents the fire from ever starting, so if fire prevention is your specialty – keep doing that! It’s important and brings a great deal of real value to the Board, but also be willing to step up and put out the fire when needed to get the recognition you deserve.

3) Recognize “Stereotype Threat.” It is exhausting spending all of your time trying not to "be" the stereotype, e.g., women in gaming working to be just like the men in gaming. Worse, this constant attempting to fit in has two negative outcomes: women and minorities fail to provide the alternative perspective the company truly needs, and ultimately they exit the industry, because it is too draining to constantly be playing a role instead of just naturally doing what you are already great at. Be yourself; work with your CEO or executive team to see the value in your difference.

If you want to achieve a seat on a Board of Directors and thrive once there, and bring the most value to the company or organization, don’t try to hide your difference, embrace it! Just like Maggie Thatcher did.