The Women on Boards Project (WOB Project), a nonprofit with the mission of empowering female business leaders and improving diversity and inclusion at the board of directors level, said it’s partnering with private equity firms and an inaugural group of 20 companies to increase gender diversity and inclusion on private consumer company boards.

The move allies the diversity nonprofit with powerful private equity firms that often have a say in who should be on boards of big companies. The WOB Project is partnering with cofounder VMG Partners and L Catterton, Swander Pace Capital, Alliance Consumer Growth, TSG Consumer Partners, Encore Consumer Capital, and CircleUp.

The WOB Project said these firms represent a movement to drive change within the private equity industry to bring diversity to boards, with the understanding that diversity improves business results.

To start, 20 private consumer companies — including Aden + Anais, Mented Cosmetics, Urban Remedy, and SimpleMills — have signed on to the WOB Project. The project will offer pro bono support to a new cohort of 20 companies every six months to help them identify strong, diverse candidates for their boards.

For each company, the WOB Project will collaborate on a candidate scorecard, compensation parameters, and interview and research strategies. From there, the WOB Project will provide five to 10 candidates that fit the criteria and will continue to support each company as they work to enhance gender diversity on their respective boards. The WOB Project has developed a strategic partnership with theBoardlist and its community, which comprises 14,000 women, along with the community that members of the WOB Project have developed within the consumer industry.

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Cassie Nielsen, cofounder of the WOB Project and vice president of talent at VMG Partners, said in a statement that women drive 70% to 80% of all consumer purchasing. Without immediately addressing diversity and inclusion on boards and in other leadership positions, companies and industries will not meet the needs of consumers, she said.

Robert Brown, cofounder and managing director at Encore Consumer Capital, said in a statement that his firm is honored to participate and that taking brands to the next level means ensuring all people represented at the company have a voice.

The WOB Project was created in 2020 by industry leaders to increase the number of women serving on boards while also expanding diversity across race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and gender fluidity.

The WOP Project board includes:

  • Kara Cissell-Roell, general partner, VMG Partners
  • Mita Mallick, head of diversity and cross-cultural marketing, Unilever
  • Brianna Rizzo Brown, principal of talent, Stripes
  • Alex Hanifin, vice president of marketing, the Good Crisp and former CEO of Alpine Start
  • Melissa Facchina, founder, Siddhi Shots
  • Cassie Nielsen, vice president of talent, VMG Partners
  • Sheryl O’Loughlin, former CEO of Rebbl and Clif Bar and cofounder of Plum Organics

Participating private equity firms include:

  • Alliance Consumer Growth
  • CircleUp
  • Encore Consumer Capital
  • L Catterton
  • Swander Pace Capital
  • TSG Consumer Partners
  • VMG Partners (Co-founder of WOB Project)

The 20 companies participating in the initiative:

  • Aden + Anais
  • ALOHA
  • Alter Eco Foods
  • Ancient Harvest
  • Barnana
  • Confidential TSG Portfolio Company
  • DRY Soda Company
  • Fireclay Tile
  • Hanna Andersson
  • ICONIC Protein
  • Magic Spoon
  • S. Martinelli & Co.
  • Mented Cosmetics
  • Moon Juice
  • SimpleMills
  • The Good Bean
  • Urban Remedy
  • USUAL Wines / Vinebox
  • Velocity Snack Brands (Parent company of popchips)
  • Whisps