2016 Navient Board (Photo provided by Navient)

2016 Navient Board (Photo provided by Navient)

Jack Remondi is President and CEO of Navient, the nation’s leading loan management, servicing and asset recovery company. Navient provides loan management, servicing and asset recovery services for more than 12 million clients nationwide in both the public and private sector, including more than $300 billion in student loans.

Christopher P. Skroupa: Navient is one of the few Fortune 500 companies that have more women than men on their board. Can you tell us more about your board composition?

Jack Remondi: When Navient went through a spin-off transition in 2014, our objective was to grow and diversify our business. To carry out this business transformation we started at the top and focused on the composition of our boardroom.

Today, six out of 11 of Navient board members are women. Women board members also chair our audit and compensation committees. I am proud to be at the helm of a company that values experience and gender diversity at such a high level.

Skroupa: Why and how did you accomplish this record?

Remondi: As the scope of our business changed, we needed a board with expertise and backgrounds that aligned with our new direction. We sought new members with experience in areas like cyber security and mergers and acquisitions. We looked for this expertise among a diverse pool of candidates who could bring different perspectives, expertise, and thought into the boardroom, and concurrently build a board that represents our diverse client and consumer base.   

We pushed ourselves to find the talent we needed, not just people we knew.  Our board chair was a champion for this change. We tapped the services of a search firm that specialized in bringing forward skilled, experienced candidates of diverse backgrounds. In doing so, we found an abundance of driven and accomplished professionals—many of them women—ranging in age and professional expertise. Navient is stronger thanks to the breadth of experiences and perspectives the board brings to the table.

Skroupa: How were you able to make these changes so quickly?

Remondi: When Navient spun off from Sallie Mae, our board was left with several vacant seats and an opportunity to reimagine what our corporate governance structure should look like.  We also looked ahead, considering the future retirement of several directors.  The company was already moving forward and growing so we also had to ensure that the board would be a high-functioning governing body that could hit the ground running fairly quickly.

Not many companies get the opportunity to make changes to their boards this swiftly. Most boards change much more gradually due to typical lengths of board terms and retirement cycles. In those instances, shifts in culture happen over time, and one member at a time. Navient was fortunate to have this remarkable opportunity to make more substantial changes, and we capitalized on it.

Skroupa: How do you think your leadership record of women on the board influences the culture of inclusivity/diversity at Navient?

Remondi: While our gender diversity leadership in the boardroom is a relatively new milestone, our company prior to the spin-off had a long history of promoting a culture of inclusivity and diversity. We were ahead of the curve years ago in offering benefits for same-sex couples. We were recognized as a top company for working mothers and executive women. Our mission to remove financial barriers to higher education contributed to an increasing proportion of women earning college degrees.

We are continuing these efforts by reviewing gender, racial and ethnic diversity across the company overall, beyond the boardroom. We’ve joined with the White House and other companies to sign on to the Equal Pay Pledge.  

Looking more broadly, we’ve conducted research on the financial health of young adults ages 22 to 35 across the country with our research partner Ipsos. What we found surprised and concerned us: even millennial women continue to earn less than their male peers. We’re committed to raising awareness of this persistent gender pay gap and joining with others to identify solutions for current and future generations of women workers.

Skroupa: Why is board gender diversity important for corporate governance and business strategy?  

Remondi: If everyone on a board shares the same viewpoint, you will not only miss out on great talent, but also the valuable perspective that diversity—diversity of gender, race or ethnicity, experience, and expertise—brings.

Without a doubt, our diverse corporate board enriches our approach to corporate governance and enhances our company’s potential. Every member of our board is a talented leader in his or her own right, and together, they push Navient to perform at a higher level.

Christopher P. Skroupa is the founder and CEO of Skytop Strategies, a global organizer of conferences.