One of the Standards for Excellence states that
“Board membership should reflect the diversity of the communities served by the organization.”
But what does diverse mean? In the early days of affirmative action, there was a water cooler joke that to get hired you needed to be able to check off certain boxes – black, Hispanic, female, with an Asian surname. The more boxes you could check off, the more likely your resume would be read.
Wow, is that dated! Not to mention extremely offensive! That’s not diversity, that’s tokenism.
Instead, look at what a Board Source white paper Does Board Size Really Matter says about diversity versus inclusivity.
Increasing diversity in itself cannot be the ultimate goal. The goal must start by understanding the power of difference — searching for the perfect mixture of attributes, using what individuals have to offer, negotiating for the best solution. Being inclusive of diverse opinions and approaches is the solid foundation when building diversity.
Of course, every organization is different, so mandating a list of skills, attributes and perspectives isn’t possible. Instead, what do you need from your board in the way of passion, viewpoints, talent, skills, and contacts?
Only after you’ve figured this out, should you go out and engage prospective board members of all kinds. Board members who are collectively inclusive of a diverse constituency will be your best defense against stodgy ‘been there, done that’ mentality.
But merely checking off boxes doesn’t do it.
If you’d like more information about Standards for Excellence, let me know. Click here for more info!