Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

While it’s encouraging that boards are increasingly focused on addressing gender, ethnicity and diversity in the boardroom, a lot of boards are struggling to realize their true potential. Boards that treat the recruitment of diverse directors as an «check box» exercise may end with a largely diverse board but one lacking in cognitive diversity, which could drastically impact the effectiveness of boards.

When the right amount of diversity is brought to a board and the results can be transformative. If women are represented on a board, their perspectives on subjects like merchandising or marketing can be incorporated in deliberations. The result is an improved understanding of the customer and their needs, which will increase sales and profits.

Diversity can also help improve the environment of a company. A board with a diverse demographic is more aware of issues such as gender discrimination and sexual harassment and better equipped to anticipate changes in attitudes of employees regarding equal pay and workplace practices.

If a board successful strategic plan is looking to expand its efforts in diversity to the next level, it’s a good idea to consider what it will look like and how it can identify and hire candidates who possess the knowledge, skills of experience, and contacts needed to achieve that. In this regard it could consider conducting an assessment of its own composition and using resources such as Michigan Nonprofit Association’s diversity tool to encourage honest discussions with board members as well as key stakeholders about what the board’s priorities are in terms of diversity.

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