When and Why Diversity Improves Your Board’s Performance

Why is this article important?  It has some interesting points to make about the difference between tokenism and really embracing diversity on a board.

The majority of people on nonprofit boards, acknowledge that board diversity is important. But even as research shows the intention to improve board diversity, the 2017 report, Leading with Intent, shows that “boards are no more diverse than they were two years ago.”* Meanwhile, as boards continue to talk about diversifying, the definition of what constitutes diversity has evolved.

From tokenism to inclusion

Society has moved from tokenism to ensuring that people of diverse age, gender, ethnicity, orientation and background not only fill important roles with their skills and talents, but are also valued for the diversity that they bring.

The perspective of this article from Harvard Business Review, When and Why Diversity Improves Your Board’s Performance,  is that of a for-profit corporation. But there are valuable lessons for nonprofit boards that want to both encourage diversity and take advantage of that diversity. To quote the authors:

“Diversity doesn’t matter as much on boards where members’ perspectives are not regularly elicited or valued. To make diverse boards more effective, boards need to have a more egalitarian culture — one that elevates different voices, integrates contrasting insights, and welcomes conversations about diversity.”

What might that mean for your Governance or Nominating Committee? More pointedly, what might that mean for how your board approaches ambitious or controversial decisions? How might having different voices around the table change not only the decisions that you make, but how you make those decisions?

If this article has started some conversations, or even caused some deep thinking about governance and recruitment, please let me know.

And watch for more curated articles. If you see an article you think everyone should read, please send it on. Or if you want to talk about facilitation, governance or planning for your organization, I’d love to have that conversation.

More eyes – more articles – more wisdom!

– Susan Detwiler

*Leading With Intent 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices.