Frequently Asked Questions
BCBR works to increase Black representation on corporate boards across the United States.
More capital flows through corporations than through governments, making corporate governance crucial to wide-ranging economic and societal impact. Research has shown that increased board diversity—in terms of gender, race, economic level, lived experience, and more—leads to measurably better business outcomes. And diversity starts at the top.
Even so, more than one-third of S&P 500 companies lacked even one Black board member as recently as 2019, and only 4% of Russell 3000 board directors are Black. Addressing that problem is why the BCBR was founded.
The BCBR program is open to Black executives who have gained extensive senior leadership experience or an equivalent span of control, including as a CEO or general manager. From among qualified Black executives nationwide who apply, up to 27 participants are selected per BCBR cohort.
Following a kick-off meeting, cohorts meet twice virtually, then have four weeks of webinars and coaching, followed by two more virtual meetings. The entire program takes a little over a month, culminating in a certificate ceremony for the cohort graduates and the entire BCBR community. A few weeks after the final meeting, cohort graduates are formally introduced to the public and to representatives of companies with potential board seats available.
- People with first-hand experience of being a Black corporate board member are responsible for creating and presenting the program curriculum, along with providing personalized mentorship to each BCBR participant.
- More than courses and book-learning, BCBR programs pay attention to the intangibles that Black board members must navigate.
- BCBR is hosted by a sponsoring university, Santa Clara University, built on Jesuit principles, including a commitment to social justice.
- The program was formed and launched with speed and dedication. The co-founders followed up immediately on every potential connection and got the first cohort up and running quickly.
- The BCBR co-founders think big, believing that changing corporate governance can help change the world for the better.
BCBR was co-founded by Thane Kreiner, PhD, and Dennis Lanham.
Thane is a board member, co-founder, and independent advisor with 27+ years’ experience leading systemic change to improve health and wellness for people and the planet. He served for a decade as executive director of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which transformed under his direction into the world’s leading university-based accelerator of social enterprises. Before that, he started four life sciences ventures and served as president and CEO of DNA chip industry pioneer Affymetrix. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, a doctoral degree in neurosciences from Stanford University School of Medicine, and an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Dennis is senior assistant dean and executive director of the Silicon Valley Executive Center at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. He has built several dozen high-impact executive and professional development programs and universities across the United States. He earned a bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis from the University of North Texas, a master’s degree in higher education and higher education administration from the Florida State University College of Education, and an MBA in international business from Georgia State University’s J. Jack Robinson College of Business.
Through their mutual ties to Santa Clara University, a Jesuit university located in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, they first became colleagues, then close friends. They found that they shared a passion for fostering a more just, humane, and sustainable world, as well as an abiding belief that collective action is essential to effect social justice.
They knew from their own networks and connections that the lack of Black board representation isn’t due to a lack of qualified Black professionals. There are plenty of Black professionals with the education, credentials, and skills needed to hold leadership positions in corporate boardrooms and executive suites.
Dennis had experience building SCU’s Women’s Corporate Board Readiness (WCBR) program, launched in 2019, designed to increase the number of women holding corporate board seats. In early 2020, he and Thane began exploring the idea of a similar program at SCU to increase the number of Black leaders holding corporate board seats. When George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, they resolved to turn their ideas about the BCBR into reality, leveraging the same principles as WCBR.
Thane and Dennis began by reaching out to Black leaders in their professional and personal networks to learn directly from the community that the BCBR program would ultimately impact.
Thane’s network drew from his extensive experience in Silicon Valley and included mentors from Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Stanford business school classmates, venture capital and private equity firm partners, and executive recruiters. Dennis looked to both his personal and professional networks—which, due to the fact that he was raised in a predominantly Black community, comprised a large number of Black professionals—as well as champions within SCU, including the WCBR network.
On June 30, 2020 Shellye Archambeau, an experienced CEO whose board memberships include Verizon, Nordstrom, and Okta, responded to a blind communication from Dennis on LinkedIn requesting advice on the program concept. She was preparing for the launch of her book, Unapologetically Ambitious, and referred Thane and Dennis to Robin Washington—a high-powered CFO and board member at companies including Alphabet, Honeywell, and SalesForce—who agreed to an exploratory conversation.
After that conversation, Robin introduced Thane and Dennis to Barry Lawson Williams, who serves on the board of Management Leadership for Tomorrow and had created a Black Corporate Directors Time Capsule Project. Barry volunteered himself to BCBR and provided introductions to Ken and Caretha Coleman and numerous other Black corporate directors, all of whom said, “If Barry is in, I’m in.” By the end of August, Thane and Dennis had met with dozens of Black corporate directors and were encouraged to move forward with the BCBR program.
Yes. In September 2020, Thane and Dennis formed a BCBR Program Advisory Council (PAC) to guide on strategy and help hone the program design. The PAC includes Robin Washington, Barry Williams, Caretha Coleman, Mark Goodman, Desirée Stolar, and Almaz Negash.
The first cohort of BCBR launched in February 2021, in honor of Black History month. The inaugural cohort was oversubscribed (the initial goal was to reach at least half capacity of 25 for the first cohort) with 28 Black executives.
In the first 12 months of the BCBR program, 82 participants were graduated from three cohorts. A fourth cohort was graduated early in the second year of the program, and additional cohorts continue to be recruited and scheduled.
With encouragement from the BCBR PAC, the co-founders set the ambitious outcome metric of 100% placement for program alums within 12 months of program completion. In less than a year, more than 60% of inaugural cohort members had secured public or private corporate board seats
From the outset of BCBR planning, the co-founders recognized that accomplishing their board placement goals required helping the concentration of Black talent being graduated from BCBR to find appropriate public or private corporate board director positions. Leveraging their professional and private networks again, Thane and Dennis identified potential sponsors and created a ‘receptor network’ of talent partners at venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) firms, search consultants, and sitting directors.
The founders, PAC, and everyone involved with the BCBR is committed to continue expanding the program until achieving its goal of widespread authentic corporate board diversity throughout the nation.