So why is there still a persistent underrepresentation of minorities and women on boards of directors?
Johnson joined Malaika in 2012, after working for Milwaukee Public Schools and COA Youth & Family Centers. Johnson, who holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Human Services, is considered a champion of quality early childhood education for low-income children. She's a member of NPC's Executives of Color Leaders Circle.
We interviewed Johnson on her work in the sector and why board diversity is important for nonprofits.
Johnson: There are many reasons, but if I had to choose one, it would be that I am passionate about the betterment of communities and most of the services provided in the nonprofit sector focus on that concept.
NPC: What excites you most about NAEYC's mission?
Johnson: NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. We advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children. What excites me most about NAEYC’s mission is that it 1) focuses on birth through age 8 and 2) connects practice, policy and research - combining all pieces of the puzzle to make the greatest impact on the lives of children.
NPC: What do you find most challenging about leadership in the nonprofit sector?
Johnson: TIME and RESOURCES! The most challenging thing about leadership in the nonprofit sector is the need for strong leadership across all sectors, connecting on a regular basis to support the community. In my opinion, this is really about the resources available to the nonprofit sector to support and cultivate leaders.
NPC: What is your most memorable moment as an Executive Director?
Johnson: My most memorable moment was when I was recognized as a “Milwaukee Superhero” and in that same year for Boss’s Day all of my staff and a couple parents wrote superhero messages about me/my leadership and left them on my office door. I tend not to be an emotionally vulnerable person but I literally cried immediately. You never really know the impact you have on others. And the messages are still on my office door.
NPC: As you look forward to your four year appointment on NAEYC's board of directors, what issues do you think will be most prominent?
Johnson: Early childhood has been an afterthought for decades and really should be at the forefront of every community’s agenda. I am looking forward to supporting the work of NAEYC's strategic direction which includes but is not limited to: equitable access to high-quality learning, recognition of excellence in the profession and the vital role it plays in society (this includes compensation), and cultivating leadership that moves the field forward.
NPC: What can organizations do to increase their board diversity, and why is that important?
Johnson: Increasing board diversity is crucial in today’s society. Organizations could truly benefit by assessing the expertise, socio-economic status and generation of its members. All of the named areas will bring a different perspective to the work that the organization needs to accomplish. This is important because we live in a society where no one thing matters. The saying “Money makes the world go around” pretty much became obsolete once the world became so dependent on technology. So I’d say that yes, money is needed but you also need innovative thinkers who are able to keep up with the fast-paced digital world that we live in.
NPC: Why is there a persistent underrepresentation of minorities and women on boards of directors?
Johnson: In my opinion, minorities and women are sometimes underrepresented on boards because they are not always afforded the opportunities to add one more thing to their plate. They are already juggling work, family and in many instances, their own education. I can speak from my own personal experience that it was really hard as a single parent to add anything extra as I was already working full-time, always in school and making sure that my son participated in extra-curricular activities.
Executives of Color Leaders Circle
- To increase the personal and organizational effectiveness through the on-going applications of skills, encouraging accountability, receiving resources and support.
- To provide a network for executives of color to attain focused feedback, new perspectives, validation and renewal.