Connie Collingsworth

Board Experience

Banner Corporation (NASDAQ: BANR)

2013
Publically traded bank holding company with approximately $10B in assets. Board Member; Governance Committee Chair; Compensation Committee Member

Premera Blue Cross

2013
Preeminent Pacific Northwest health care coverage with over 2M members. Board Member; Member of Audit & Compliance, Quality, and Investment Committees

Attenex Corporation

2000 to 2008
Privately held technology company in eDiscovery marketplace. Board Member

Q & A

How did you learn about your current board opportunities? Did active networking play a role?

Yes, active networking was key to obtaining both the Banner and Premera board positions. The Banner board opportunity arose as a result of participating in an event held at the NYSE called “Moving the Needle.” The objective of the event was to promote broader board diversity in US public companies. A short bio of the individuals participating in the event was included in a book, which was distributed to the Board Chairs and Chairs of the Governance and Nominating Committees of all publically traded US companies. The Chair of Banner’s Governance Committee had been a board member of a prior client when I was practicing law at Preston Gates & Ellis. I had not had any contact with him for over 13 years, but when he saw my bio in the book he reached out to talk to me about joining the Banner board. The opportunity to join the Premera board arose as a result of me networking with a former law firm partner who had become the General Counsel of Premera and letting him know that I was interested in serving on corporate boards. He recommended me to the CEO of the company as a potential board candidate. The board position at Attenex Corporation arose in connection with working with the company as a client while I was practicing law at Preston Gates & Ellis.

How has DirectWomen helped you achieve your board service-related objectives?

Participating in DirectWomen helped me appreciate the importance of being proactive in letting people know I am interested and qualified to serve on a corporate board. In these conversations, I emphasize my strengths as an experienced strategic advisor, with knowledge and expertise in governance and risk management. Additionally, I talk about my expertise in complex business transactions and sophisticated financing arrangements and that I am viewed as a leader with strong business judgment and exceptional communication and interpersonal skills---all characteristics companies look for in potential board candidates.

What have been/were the most challenging aspects of establishing yourself as a director?

I think there is a barrier to improving gender diversity on boards as a result of the preference for female CEOs as the first choice as a board candidate. There generally is a lack of appreciation for the qualifications of other C-Suite Executives, and perhaps an even stronger bias against General Counsels. This is based on the perception that a GC will play the role of “lawyer” versus that of seasoned strategic business advisor.

Which of your skills/attributes do you believe have been most instrumental in your board role(s)?

I believe the exposure to a broad range of businesses and complex transactions throughout my career has prepared me well to contribute to the boards’ discussions with management. Asking insightful questions of management in a constructive fashion is also viewed as a critical skill in fulfilling a board member’s fiduciary obligation.

What specific events, people or tactics (if any) have helped your transition from career woman to board director?

Being intentional and proactive about networking and making efforts to educate myself to be an excellent board member are both critical.

What ongoing activities continue to develop/enhance your effectiveness as a director?

I served as a board member of the NACD Northwest Chapter and am a member of Women Corporate Directors. I also participated in a Harvard Business School Leadership Forum in 2014 and attended the Stanford Directors’ College Executive Education Program in 2012. I also continue to be actively involved in DirectWomen, attending its annual Sandra Day O’Connor luncheons and serving as Chair of the Honoree Committee and Co-Chair of the Class Committee.

What are your further short/medium/long-term board service objectives?

The two boards on which I currently sit are both highly regarded regional companies based in the Pacific Northwest. My objective is to have an opportunity to serve on the board of a company with a broader geographical footprint where I can add value based on the depth of international experience gained from working at the Bill & Gates Foundation and my understanding regarding markets of emerging economies. It would also be great to have an opportunity to utilize the unique insights I have regarding corporate social responsibility.

What advice would you give to aspiring women directors?

Two critical words—patience and persistence. Start planting the seeds by telling everyone you talk to that you are interested in serving on a corporate board. Make an investment in becoming educated regarding the responsibilities of a board member by becoming engaged, such as in the local NACD or a Women Corporate Directors chapter, which also provide good opportunities for networking.

Biography

Connie Collingsworth is the General Counsel, Secretary and member of the Executive Leadership Team of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest foundation, with over $43 billion in assets. Ms. Collingsworth serves on the board of Banner Corporation, a bank holding company, with assets of approximately $10 billion, operating throughout the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. She is the Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee and also serves as a member of the Compensation and Risk Committees. Ms. Collingsworth also serves on the board of Premera Blue Cross, one of the largest health plans in the Pacific Northwest, and sits on its Audit & Compliance Committee, Investment Committee and Quality Committee. She previously served as a board member for Attenex Corporation, a privately held company that became an established leader in automating data processing with powerful visualization tools to analyze massive amounts of electronically stored information.

Prior to joining the foundation, Ms. Collingsworth was a partner of Preston Gates & Ellis (now K&L Gates), a leading Northwest law firm based in Seattle, where she served as lead attorney for a broad range of commercial transactions, merger and acquisitions, and private equity financings, including venture capital and hedge funds. During her tenure at Preston Gates & Ellis, she served as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, was the Chairperson of the firm’s Business Department and served as a member of the Compensation Committee.

Nonprofit activities include serving as the Secretary and board member of Women’s World Banking, a global network of microfinance institutions focused on expanding the economic assets, participation and power of low-income women and their households by helping them access financial services, and also serves as a member of the Finance and Compensation Committees. Ms. Collingsworth is also currently a board member of the Northwest Chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). 

Previous nonprofit leadership activities include serving as the Board Chair of Social Venture Partners (SVP), a network of individuals who combine financial contributions and professional skills with a passion for philanthropy to leverage expertise and resources to strengthen nonprofits.  She was also a Co-Founder, Board Chair and President of the French American School of Puget Sound, a nonprofit, full-immersion French language school serving students from pre-school through grade 8, with current enrollment of approximately 415 students. 

Connie holds an LL.M. in International Business Studies from the University of Exeter, England, a J.D. from the University of Nebraska and a B.A. from Andrews University.

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