Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

While it’s encouraging that boards are focusing on addressing issues related to gender, race and diversity in the boardroom, many are struggling to realize their full potential. Boards who treat the hiring of diverse directors as a “check box” exercise may end up with a demographically diverse board but one lacking in cognitive diversity that could significantly impact the effectiveness of boards.

If the right mix of perspectives is brought to a board and the results can be transformative. For instance, if women are included on boards and their views on topics such as merchandising or marketing are brought to the table during deliberations, the result can be an improved understanding of the customer and their needs. This can increase sales and profits.

Diversity can also improve the environment of a company. For instance the board with members who are diverse in demographics could be more attentive to issues related to discrimination in the workplace and sexual harassment and more likely to anticipate changes in attitudes of employees about equal pay and other corporate practices.

If a board wishes to take its diversity initiatives to the next level, a good first step is looking at what it might be like in the near future and how it will identify and find candidates with the required qualifications, experience, and connections to get it that way. To accomplish this it could consider conducting an assessment of its own composition and using resources such as Michigan Nonprofit Association’s diversity tool to start honest discussions between board members and other key stakeholders on what the board’s requirements are in terms of diversity.