Ready RDP

Taking Board Diversity to the Next Level

It’s encouraging that boards are increasing their focus on gender and ethnicity as well as diversity, yet many are struggling to realize their full potential. Boards who treat the hiring of diverse directors as an “check box” exercise could end with a largely diverse board, but a lack of cognitive diversity, which can significantly reduce board effectiveness.

If the right mix of perspectives is brought to a board and the results can be transformative. When women are included on a board, their views on issues like merchandising and marketing are able to be incorporated on the discussions. The result is an improved understanding of the customer’s demands, which could boost sales and profit.

Diversity can also benefit the work environment of a business. For example an executive board that has members who are diverse in demographics could be more aware of issues surrounding discrimination in the workplace, sexual harassment, and more likely to anticipate changes in attitudes of employees about equal pay and other corporate practices.

If a board wants to advance its efforts in diversity to the next level it’s a good idea to consider what it will look like and how it will identify and recruit candidates who have the skills, knowledge of experience, contacts and skills to accomplish that. To achieve this, the board might conduct a self-assessment to determine its current composition. It could also use resources such as Michigan Nonprofit Association’s tool for diversity on the board to encourage open dialogue among board members and key stakeholders about what they look for in terms of diversity.

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