Interpretive Reading Speech 3:
The founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, T.J. Rodgers, is a powerfully persuasive writer. When he got a rubber-stamped form letter from Sister Doris Gormley, stating that the order she represents would vote against the Cypress board--including T.J. Rodgers --because the board lacks women or minority members, he went ballistic. Cypress was, he believed, under attack from a know-nothing with a coercive political agenda. He dictated the first draft of his response on his cassette recorder while driving home. He had to clench it in his teeth while he changed gears. He left teeth marks.
Here is the abridged letter.
Dear Sister Gormley:
Thank you for your letter criticizing the lack of racial and gender diversity of Cypress's Board of Directors. I will provide the philosophical basis behind our rejection of the operating principles espoused in your letter, which we believe to be not only unsound, but even immoral, by a definition of that term I will present.
The semiconductor business is a tough one with significant competition. For that reason, our Board of Directors is not a ceremonial watchdog, but a critical management function. The essential criteria for Cypress board membership are as follows:
Experience as a CEO of an important technology company.
Direct expertise in the semiconductor business based on education and management experience.
Direct experience in the management of a company that buys from the semiconductor industry.
A search based on these criteria usually yields a male who is 50-plus years old, has a Master's degree in an engineering science, and has moved up the managerial ladder to the top spot in one or more corporations. Unfortunately, there are currently few minorities and almost no women who chose to be engineering graduate students 30 years ago. We would quickly embrace the opportunity to include any woman or minority person who could help us as a director, because we pursue talent--and we don't care in what package that talent comes.
Placing arbitrary racial or gender quotas on corporate boards is fundamentally wrong. Your requirements are immoral. By "immoral," I mean "causing harm to people". Here's why:
I presume you believe your organization does good work and that the people who spend their careers in its service deserve to retire with the necessities of life assured. If your investment in Cypress is intended for that purpose, I can tell you that each of the retired Sisters of St. Francis would suffer if I were forced to run Cypress on anything but a profit-making basis.
Consider charitable donations. When the U.S. economy shrinks, the dollars available to charity shrink faster, including those dollars earmarked for the Sisters of St. Francis. If all companies in the U.S. were forced to operate according to some arbitrary social agenda, rather than for profit, all American companies would operate at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors, all Americans would become less well off (some laid off), and charitable giving would decline precipitously.
A final point with which you will undoubtedly disagree: Electing people to corporate boards based on racial preferences is demeaning to the very board members placed under such conditions, and unfair to people who are qualified.
You ought to get down from your moral high horse. Choosing a Board of Directors based on race and gender is a lousy way to run a company. Cypress will never do it.
Cypress stands for free minds and free markets.