Increasing Board Diversity
As the end of May drew to a conclusion, we saw the beginnings of the public outcry for racial equity with the murder of George Floyd. This second Civil Rights movement has called to attention the centuries long racial disparities and decline of economic mobility of Black Americans from the end of slavery to the first Civil Rights movement of the 60’s.
If, like me you’ve been soaking up as much information on how to be antiracist through articles, books, personal anecdotes, and infographics (and if you haven’t, you absolutely should be). This current call for the end of systemic racism spans across all institutions in our society, including the corporate board room.
Dedicated to Diversifying The Boardroom
At Women in the Boardroom, we’ve been dedicated to diversifying the boardroom for the last 18 years – that includes not only gender but also racial diversity.
And although we’ve seen some progress; with the percentage of women joining boards and ethnic diversity on corporate boards at an all-time high, ethnic diversity unfortunately, is growing at a much slower pace than gender diversity. It is our hope that as our nation continues the discussion of antiracism, diversity, and inclusion, we see a higher trend in Black, people of color, and other ethnicities, represented in the corporate boardroom.
We know that having women on corporate boards is better for the bottom line, and the same is true when it comes to diversifying a board’s racial makeup. Simply, companies with more diverse boards (and corporate leadership for that matter) outperform their peers in profitability.
So What Can We Do Right Now to Increase Board Diversity?
The first step, is acknowledging the lack of diversity on corporate boards and recognizing that previous attempts in Diversity and Inclusion have not worked. In doing so, it immediately challenges the existing norms that white men are far overrepresented in the board room.
Board members should be spotlighting this issue in their upcoming board meetings and holding each other accountable for demonstrating inclusive leadership through continued discussions and strategies to ameliorate antiracism processes in the long run.
Take a Stand Against Racism
Another immediate change corporate boards can make, especially as consumers are looking to companies to take a stand against racism, is to actually make space for candidates from racially diverse groups. Businesses like Adidas and Estee Lauder have dedicated a percentage of their open positions, including leadership positions, to Black and LatinX individuals in efforts to be more reflective of the percentage of Black and Hispanic individuals that make up the U.S. population.
Corporate boards can apply this method very easily by having their member nomination committees require and seek a more diverse applicant pool. In an even more poignant step towards antiracism, Levi Strauss & Co. publicly committed to appointing a Black board member.
Find New Ways to Recruit
An additional step boards may take to increase diversity is to make efforts to include candidates that meet most of their requirements, thus growing their applicant pool. Just like when it comes to hiring applicants for a job, skills, experience and knowledge are absolutely important, but, oftentimes, hiring managers will select the applicant that lends themselves better to the current workplace culture.
Boards should be looking to do the same by assessing what gaps in representation they may have in their board makeup and finding new ways to source and evaluate diverse candidates.
If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, Reach out to me directly!
Sheila Ronning, Founder, Women in the Boardroom.