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Freshly-trained execs ready to fill diversity gap

The Directors Inclusion Initiative program – a partnership between the National Urban League and Advance America has yielded its first group of graduates. NEW YORK – The Directors Inclusion Initiative program – a partnership between the National Urban League and Advance America has yielded its first group of graduates.

“Although African Americans have made great strides in corporate America in the last few decades, minorities still represent a small fraction of board-level corporate leadership,” said National Urban League President & CEO Marc H. Morial. “I’m proud of these seven dynamic leaders, who are will be tremendous assets to any business enterprise.”

The seven graduates are: Kendrick Ashton, chief operations officer, Perella Weinberg Partners, Brooklyn N.Y.; Derryl O. Benton, senior vice president Business Development/Airport Affairs, The Hudson Group, Winter Park, Fla.; Yolanda Caraway, president and CEO, The Caraway Group, Inc., Washington, D.C.; Harry Johnson, president and CEO, Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation, Washington; Oscar Joyner, president, Reach Media Inc., Dallas; David Panton, partner, Navigation Capital Partners, Atlanta; Judson Robinson III, president & CEO, Houston Area Urban League, Houston.

“Advance America is honored to partner with the National Urban League in this endeavor to empower dozens of new executives,” said Advance America Board Chairman Billy Webster Webster. “As a board chairman I know that this initiative offers some of the best and brightest young professionals an opportunity to maximize their potential in the public company structure, while also enhancing the business capabilities of the companies they will serve.”

The organizations have partnered with the Corporate Directors Group to provide the training.

Clint Allen, founder and president of the Corporate Directors Group, an organization of nearly 1100 public company board members, and which offers the only professional director certification said, “This group of seven outstanding National Urban League director candidates completed a minimum of thirty hours of education including public company director governance, regulation and strategy. They are prepared to serve a public company as professional and competent board members.”

According to a 2009 study by the non-profit Executive Leadership Council, the percentage of African Americans filling Fortune 500 board seats actually declined from 2004 to 2008.  It now stands at 7 percent, despite the fact that African Americans now comprise 13 percent of the population.

“This lack of representation has negative consequences for consumers and corporate America,” Morial said.  

“African American voices and perspectives are needed on corporate boards to ensure that business decisions affecting Black America are both responsible and sensitive to the needs of our communities.  And with growing economic clout of African-American consumers, it is just plain good business sense for public companies to promote inclusion and diversity up and down the corporate ladder.”

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