Diversity: Are you Simply Checking the Box? There’s a Better Way. 

Our society has experienced a reawakening during the last two years. Social and political unrest combined with a global pandemic have caused us to reexamine many aspects of our personal and professional lives. 

The shifting conversations around underrepresented groups are particularly noticeable in the workplace. My hope is that these discussions prompt both corporate and nonprofit boards to intensify their efforts to authentically balance board composition as well.

Too often, board members look at diversity as another box they need to check when, instead, they should be considering the broader reasons for thoughtfully recruiting talented individuals.

I explore this topic in my latest book, Onboarding Champions. When approaching this subject, it’s important to remember that a board’s composition should be representative of, most importantly, those competent to govern.  But that competence should be sought in nontraditional places. This includes neurodiverse individuals, those from underrepresented racial, ethnic, and gender groups, as well as those from the constituency or market the organization serves. 

It sounds reasonable, sure, but history tells a different story due in part to the fact that we all carry unconscious biases. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential concerns for any board so that it understands a more complete perspective of its value and effectiveness. 

Board diversity is smart business because customers and constituents feel a greater sense of loyalty when the board profile reflects their identity. If the leadership ignores the composition of their board, employees, and partners, they overlook a critical chance to achieve relevance and a competitive advantage.

McKinsey report underscores this rationale: “Combined spending by all Black households has increased 5 percent annually over the past two decades. It has outpaced the growth rate of combined spending by White households.” As people of color represent a larger portion of consumer behavior, organizations can no longer succeed with an indifferent approach to its customers and constituencies. 

If you’d like to delve deeper into proven practices about recruiting and training board members, chapter 5 in my book explores essential considerations, such as implicit bias, enculturation, distrust, tokenism, and how to cross the threshold into an inclusive board. Or you can explore an excerpt of this chapter by way of a useful guide and exercise I recently created for leaders who need to take that first step.

If you’d like to have a conversation about your board’s current composition and how to overcome unconscious bias and other challenges, I’d be happy to connect with you

AUTHOR - James Mueller

Jim Mueller is president of James Mueller & Associates LLC (JMA), a national consulting firm that provides services in the areas of organizational development, governance, and philanthropy. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.