July 13, 2021

(Guest Post) Francine Montemurro Comments on the Proposed IOA Bylaws

The following commentary was submitted by Francine Montemurro, CO-OP, Ombuds for Boston University and the American Finance Association, and former Ombuds at SUNY Binghamton.  She served two terms on the IOA Board of Directors and volunteered on numerous standing committees. 

Hello all, Some of my concerns have already be articulated by others. I’m adding a few of my thoughts below. Thank you for the opportunity to share them. 

1. Concerns about the process/priorities.

a. No opportunity for real dialogue among members. Like Doris, I am troubled by the process thus far. I don’t know which changes would likely create a more inclusive process and Association. I do believe such changes should be the result of an inclusive and transparent process. Currently, we have one meeting scheduled for a time that is inconvenient for many IOA members not based in North America, and when many of us will be away. Instead of continuing down the path we are on, I hope we can design a process by which experiences are shared, problems identified, priorities set, and a plan for action initiated.

b. Choice of law firm. I am concerned about the depth and quality of the Independent Report that “helped shape proposed reforms to IOA's Bylaws to make the Board election process more transparent and fair.” While I see that the focus of the review “was not on the results of past elections or nominations or attempting to assign blame to individual Board members or committees,” I wonder what the charge to the law firm. Was it to investigate discrimination/bias in the election process? Or was it to help inform a plan of action? Either way, the latter is what the membership has. Given that, I wonder why IOA chose a law firm (and this law firm, in particular) rather than a consultant group with demonstrated to DEI&B experience for this important work.

c. Why the bundling of recommendations? I understand why legislative bodies use “bundling” to move legislation through. I wonder why IOA has taken this approach. I would have voted in support some of the proposals were it not an “all or nothing” choice. I regret not supporting the hard work that went into some of these proposals.

2. Concerns about the findings & recommendations of the Independent Report of the external reviewers. The Report is of consequence because it “helped shape proposed reforms to IOA's Bylaws to make the Board election process more transparent and fair.”

a. Conclusions are offered as opinion. The report generally references feelings and perceptions of what appears to be small number of individuals. What’s missing are facts, data (qualitative or quantitative,) or substantiation of the analysis and conclusions. I might feel more confident in the recommendations had there been a survey of membership, random focus groups, or other mechanism to back the findings. Here’s one example: The report concludes that Board eligibility requirements are “stringent” and that they “impede(s) IOA’s ability to achieve a diversity of representation of the Membership on the Board.” On what basis were the criteria deemed “stringent”? Did the law firm benchmark requirements for other organizations? What convinces them that changing these requirements will result in a diverse slate of candidates or a more inclusive association?

b. Recommendations lacking in insight. I am concerned that Report –that “helped shape the proposed reforms” -- shows a lack insight into our association. One simple example: Recommendation #11 advises IOA to publicize board election vote tallies. But what if there were a slate of 3 candidates in which one candidate receives 50% of votes cast; the second receives 45%, and the third receives 5%. If you were candidate #3, how might you feel if those tallies were made public? A bit humiliated, perhaps? While the fate of this recommendation is unclear, it’s but one example of insensitivity, carelessness, or lack of insight into IOA that runs through the report. Another example: The report concludes that current board criteria have a disparate impact.There is only brief acknowledgement of why these criteria matter to many of us (e.g., b/c some of us believe they are important to our role of stewardship of the profession.). There is no mention that the criteria were proposed as selling point to garner member support for the change in membership categories.

c. The Report offers a one-dimensional approach to complex issues. Many organizations still try to change climate and create inclusivity by introducing a few policy changes. Unfortunately, the Report findings seem to buy into this approach. DEI&B work is much more complex than that. Instead of accepting the proposed reforms (or not), the membership should be afforded the opportunity to zoom back the lens, consider the issues in depth. Doris has already shared her ideas on how this might be approached.

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