National initiative plans to place N.C. women of color in the boardroomBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / May 5, 2023
Although the number of elected women in Congress has increased more than 50 percent since 2013, a woman of color was elected as Vice President in 2020, and more than 30 women have been elected to serve as mayors in the 100 largest cities in the country, advocates still say there is not enough representation on community boards and commissions.
United WE, a Kansas-based women’s empowerment organization, has partnered with The North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership to facilitate The Appointments Project, a national initiative to help get more women to serve on boards and commissions.
The NC IOPL kicked off its 2023 Women’s Leadership programming with a virtual overview of the project, testimonials from women in leadership, and information on how to join the program.The featured guest on Tuesday’s webinar was Hilda Pinnix-Ragland, a changemaker who has served in several appointed positions as the first African American woman.
She currently serves as the chairperson on the board of trustees at North Carolina A&T State University, as vice-chairperson of the board of directors of RTI International, and as Co- Chair of Wake Invests in Women. She formerly served as chairperson of the North Carolina College System and was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to serve on the board of the National Park Foundation.
She is an alumna of N.C. A&T State University with a B.S. degree in accounting. She went on to earn an MBA in Finance from Duke University. Pinnix-Ragland later completed the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy Executive Leadership program. She is the former Vice President of Corporate Public Affairs for Duke Energy, former Vice President of Energy Delivery Services for Duke Energy, Vice President of the Northern Region for Duke Energy, and Vice President of Economic Development for Progress Energy Inc.
Pinnix-Ragland noted that her most treasured board to have served on was the NC Community College System board, where she was a member for 15 years and the first African American woman to serve.
“I saw that you could take a child from anywhere in this state and they didn’t have to travel to get an education. They could start from where they were,” said Pinnix-Ragland adding, “I believe that an educated workforce is what has worked well for North Carolina.”
Pinnix-Ragland gave four pieces of advice to women considering joining a board or commission: have a passion for the issue, understand the duty of care, loyalty, and good business skillsets that you will be undertaking, do your research on the board, including its current and past membership, and make sure you leave it better than you found it.
“Women are more than qualified for board positions. We can do anything that we put our minds to. We need more women at the table, making decisions,” said Pinnix-Ragland.
She shared how she has taken her passion for education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to further her servant leadership. She is the founder of The Stimulus Academy, a STEM program for 5th grade girls in Wake County, and along with some colleagues, wrote and published a book called, “The Energy Within Us.” Proceeds from the book go to provide funds for women of color to attend college and study a STEM field.
Pinnix-Ragland stated that she wrote about her own’s life journey, fueled by her interest in STEM, where she was often the only woman or woman of color in the room.
“I saw that there were very few women in the energy field. I want more women in STEM. I want more women of color who can do and will do, and have an insatiable appetite for the STEM fields,” she said.
Elected officials rely on recommendations from civic boards and commissions to drive informed policies and decisions that impact daily life. Civic boards and commissions inform decisions about a wide range of issues from roads, water, and human relations to zoning, public health and elections. Members of these boards and commissions are not elected; they are appointed. However, many of these boards function without representation from women.
Since United WE’s The Appointments Project inception in Missouri and Kansas in 2014, the project has facilitated 182 women being appointed to boards in 34 cities, six counties, and three states nationwide. In addition to increasing gender diversity, the project emphasizes increasing racial equity on civic boards and commissions among women, with women of color representing 37 percent of applicants.
According to The NC Governor’s Office, the State of North Carolina has over 350 boards and commissions. Some of these boards advise the governor or leaders in the General Assembly, while others regulate professions, such as dentists, lawyers or certified public accountants. There are others that make policy, such as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.
“It’s time for us to get more women and people of color in the boardroom,” said Ragland. “There is a role for you. We need your skillset. You are already equipped. Now it’s up to you to get started. Don’t let 2023 pass before you say yes. Remember, you’re paying it forward for future generations of women.”
For more information visit www.iopl.org/women-on-board/.