Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

It’s encouraging to see boards increasing their focus on gender, ethnicity, and diversity, yet many are still struggling to realize their full potential. Boards that treat the recruiting of diverse directors as a “check box” exercise may end up with a demographically diverse board, but one that is not cognitive diversity, which could drastically reduce board effectiveness.

If the right diversity is brought to a board and the results are transformative. If women are represented on a board, their views on topics such as merchandising, and marketing can be brought to bear on deliberations. The result is a better understanding of the customer’s demands, which could increase profits and sales.

The benefits of diversity could also be extended to the outside environment of the business. For instance an executive board that has demographically diverse members can be more attentive to concerns regarding sexual harassment and discrimination at work and more likely to anticipate changing attitudes of employees regarding equal pay and other corporate practices.

If a board wants to take its diversity efforts to the highest level, a good starting point is looking at what it might look like in the coming years and how it will find and recruit people with the right skills, experience, knowledge and contacts to make the change. To achieve this, the board can perform a self-assessment on its current composition. It could also use resources such as Michigan Nonprofit Association’s board diversity tool to stimulate candid conversations between board members and other key stakeholders about what they are looking for in terms of diversity.


Posted by André Araújo