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Mitigating Risk and Volatility – A Conversation about Boards and Guiding Businesses through COVID‐19

Board Leadership Journal, November/December 2020

Pat Ackerman is chair of Milwaukee Women inc., and senior vice president of investor relations, corporate responsibility and sustainability, and treasurer at A.O. Smith Corporation. In this article, Pat presents insights and observations from a recent panel discussion focused on corporate board efforts to navigate the chaos and uncertainty businesses face due to the COVID‐19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

In November 2019, EY’s Center for Board Matters released a report identifying key priorities for boards of directors in 2020. Even then, concerns about growth and stability in uncertain times and evolving enterprise risk management were key priorities. Others included accelerating the talent agenda and activating culture as a strategic asset, embracing ESG as a business imperative, and redefining and better communicating long‐term value.While COVID‐19 has drastically changed how we conduct business today and will have a continued impact well into the future, all of these priorities remain relevant. To address these priorities and the new world of business today, corporate boards of directors across the country are reflecting on how to best manage the risk and volatility associated with the uncertainty in which we live.Recently, Milwaukee Women inc, an organization of professional women determined to change the face and quality of leadership in the Wisconsin business community by increasing the number of female corporate directors, hosted a frank conversation with EY’s Center for Board Matters and two business leaders and current board directors about the challenges their boards are facing, how they are managing through them and planning for the future, and lessons learned over the past six months.

Following are key insights from the conversation between Cigdem Oktem, regional leader of EY’s Center for Board Matters, who served as moderator, along with MWi members:

  • Michelle Kumbier– former chief operating officer of Harley‐Davidson. She currently serves on the board of Abbott Labs.
  • Mara Swan – retired EVP of global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup and former chief people officer at Molson Coors. She currently sits on the board of BrightView Landscapes, GOJO Industries and Uline.

To view the complete article:


Board Leadership Journal is a scholarly journal published bi-monthly (six times each year). The aim of the publication is to discover, explain, and discuss innovative and alternative approaches to board governance with the goal of helping organizations achieve effective, meaningful, and successful leadership to support and implement their missions. The publication offers advice and best practices for implementing various approaches to governance models of board leadership and informs readers on topics essential to healthy, productive, and effective boards. The publication’s readers include board members, board chairs, CEOs and executive directors, as well as individuals interested in board governance, leadership and related issues. It features the following kinds of articles in each issue:

To read EY’s full report highlighting key priorities for boards in 2020, visit https://www.ey.com/en_us/board‐matters/eight‐priorities‐for‐boards‐in‐2020 or read the following article for further insights — https://milwaukeewomeninc.org/board‐agenda‐2020‐eight‐priorities‐for‐boards‐as‐they‐tackle‐the‐covid‐19‐crisis/.

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