The Importance of Board Diversity in 2020

Regardless of industry or field, leaders at every level are looking for innovative ways to optimize operations. Whether it is improving performance of frontline staff as they answer phones, or implementing a new program to elevate efficiency across a product line, we all seek to operate at the highest possible level across our organizations. Simultaneously, we understand that leadership at the highest levels of the organization has the largest impact on overall performance, making large-scale decisions on policy and process that create lasting effects, for better or worse. Unfortunately, too often, we do not fully grasp that these two concepts should be applied together to achieve a truly transformative effect.

Chief executives and board chairs agree that the board has an impact on organizational performance. What may be less well known is that according to the same group, two particular board characteristics matter most: the board’s understanding of its roles and responsibilities and the board’s ability to work as a collaborative team toward shared goals. A board built on diversity takes these truths and infuses them with a broader reach and strength. A diverse group can better see the unique challenges and opportunities presented to each role, and a diverse group brings a wider range of ideas and experience in collaboration.

Board diversity is a choice that must be made repeatedly and systemically. Strategic board composition does not happen on its own. Boards must define what the ideal board composition looks like – not just in terms of diversity, but also in expertise, experience and networks – and then be vigilant about finding it through focused and disciplined board recruitment. For some boards, this means changing the way they identify potential candidates by moving beyond the personal networks of existing board members and considering nontraditional recruitment strategies (like BoardBuild).

Just like the organizations they represent board composition is not one-size-fits-all. However, constructing a board that is homogeneous risks having blind spots that negatively impact its ability to make the best decisions and plans for the organization. These blind spots are created by a lack of racial and ethnic diversity and may become self-fulfilling cycles resulting in strategies and plans that ineffectively address societal challenges and inequities, or even reinforce them. Whether intentional or not, the composition of a board reflects its organizational values. A lack of diversity may already be an issue and that issue is exacerbated without a diversity of leadership on which to rely.

There is a need for diversity in social sector leadership. Diversity benefits boards and organizations in substantial ways. Having the right people on a board makes higher performance – in both the board’s internal and external functions – more likely. At the most fundamental level, who serves on a board impacts how it functions and the decisions it makes. The senior leadership groups of an organization have the ability – the responsibility – to look for ways to optimize their performance, as well. Nowhere is this more crucial than within the nonprofit world. By enabling and executing a policy of diversity when constructing a governance board, organizations can ensure higher performance by adding innovative thinking that injects new and fresh perspectives to the decision-making process, while extending the reach of organizational networks.

For more information on building a successful board, contact BoardBuild


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