Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

It’s encouraging to see boards increasingly focusing on gender as well as ethnicity and diversity, yet many of them are struggling to achieve their full potential. Boards that use the recruitment of diverse directors to “check boxes” might end having a board that is demographically diverse, but lacking in cognitive diversity, which could decrease the effectiveness of boards.

If diversity is brought into an organization in the right way, the result can be transformative. For instance, if women are represented on a board and their perspectives on topics such as merchandising or marketing are brought to bear on deliberations it can result in an improved understanding of the customer and their needs that can increase profits and sales.

Diversity can also benefit the workplace environment of the company. A board that is diverse can be more sensitive to issues such as sexual harassment and workplace bias and better able to anticipate changes in employee attitudes about equality of pay and corporate practices.

If a board wants to take its diversity initiatives to the highest level, a good starting point is looking at what it might look like in the future and how it will find and hire people with the right qualifications, experience, and connections to get the change. To accomplish this, the board may conduct a self-assessment of their current composition. It could also use resources like the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s diversity tool to encourage open dialogue between board members and other key stakeholders about what it is looking for in terms diversity.

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