Business results and economic growth are increasingly reliant upon the digital business systems that power America’s companies making cybersecurity a critical issue in America’s long-term success. Cybersecurity entrepreneurs and leaders Ron and Cyndi Gula announced today that their philanthropic organization, the Gula Tech Foundation, has made a series of competitive grants—totaling $1 million—to prime the pump on making cybersecurity a core competency in America’s boardrooms.
The effective corporate governance of the complex digital business systems that power America’s services and products are an issue foundational to the competitiveness of American business. It’s also an issue squarely in the interests of national security and protecting investor interests.
The SEC has recently proposed rules that would require America’s listed companies to disclose if their directors have cyber expertise. With a strong likelihood of being enacted by the SEC, this regulation will have the effect of driving significant demand for corporate directors with deep cyber competencies. This is not a corporate director competency widely present in today’s boardrooms. Recruiting, developing, and advancing cyber leaders as a new cohort of corporate directors will help meet this demand.
The Gula’s announced at the nation’s leading cybersecurity conference, RSA 2022 that the Women’s Business Collaborative (WBC) is the first-place winner of their $1 million “Incorporating Cyber Expertise in Corporate Governance” grant competition. The WBC is an alliance of 88 women’s business organizations, 35 corporations, and 400 individuals working to achieve equal pay, position, and power for women in business. The WBC initiative to advance boardroom cyber expertise is focused on bringing a new cohort of women cyber leaders into the boardroom and developing the cyber expertise of women corporate directors who have already broken through into the boardroom.
Other awardees include the Global Resilience Federation Foundation, the National Cybersecurity Society, and the Center for Cybersecurity & Privacy Protection at Cleveland State University.
The WBC award doubles down on the decade-long progress and support for boardroom gender diversity with the dire need for boardroom cyber diversity. Expanding the pool of women willing and capable of joining corporate boards by actively recruiting and developing women cyber leaders for corporate directorship will help close the gap on cyber expertise in America’s boardrooms, a rare director competency at present. It will also positively contribute to helping America’s lagging boardroom gender diversity progress to catch up with America’s global economic peers. Developing the cyber competencies of the women who have already blazed a path into the boardroom will also make the existing pool of women corporate directors more cyber savvy.
Boardroom cyber expertise is a missing corporate director competency in most American boardrooms at present, both for private and public companies. However, the advancement of boardroom gender diversity has been significant over the last decade, but more needs to be done. Widening the pool of boardroom qualified candidates to include women cybersecurity leaders can address the significant boardroom gap of corporate directors who have the cyber expertise necessary to securely govern their companies into the digital future. It can also help America catch up to the world’s boardroom gender diversity leaders.
While America has made progress on boardroom gender diversity, this progress lags behind America’s economic peers. Deloitte’s 2022 Women in the Boardroom research indicates that the global percentage of board seats held by women reached almost 20% in 2021, up from 15% in 2016. Several countries stand out in their boardroom gender diversity progress including France at 43%, Norway at 42%, and Italy at almost 37% of board seats held by women. The United States was nineteenth on their list at 24% ahead of only Japan at 8% for the countries in the G7.
Boardroom progress in the U.S. since 2014 on gender diversity has moved the number of board seats held by women from 12% to almost 24%. Significant progress, but still well behind leading global standards in developed economies. Among the countries in the G7, the five G7 countries ahead of America and Japan average 33% of board seats held by women. With the impacts of boardroom gender diversity becoming more apparent, bringing more women cyber leaders into the boardroom will broaden and strengthen the corporate governance contribution that women corporate directors will bring to America’s companies, investors, and other stakeholders.
Fixing America’s boardroom cyber expertise problem will take a large, concerted effort. The Gula Tech Foundation’s focus on this issue and their priming of multiple structured efforts to solve it are a big and important step in the right direction. Cyber expertise in America’s boardrooms is long overdue and inevitable, whether forced by the federal government or out of sheer necessity due to the increase in cyber risks and incidents. Cyber risk demands that corporate boardrooms be a critical control strength in every company’s system of cybersecurity.
The Gula Tech Foundation’s support of encouraging diversity—of expertise, race, and gender—in corporate governance will only help America’s corporate boardrooms better govern their companies safely and securely into the digital future, improving American competitiveness along the way.