Women in the Boardroom has been dedicated to diversifying the corporate boardroom for the last 18 years. Not only has gender diversity been at the forefront of my work as the founder of WIB, but racial diversity has been part of the initiative as well.
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 my 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.
Having women on corporate boards is better for the bottom line, but the same is also true when it comes to a board’s diversity. Companies with more diverse boards and corporate leadership, for that matter, consistently outperform their peers in profitability. So, what can we do right now to increase board diversity?
Acknowledge Your Lack of Diversity
The first step in any situation that requires improvement is always acknowledgement. If you’re on a corporate board or in a leadership position, it’s important to recognize that previous attempts in diversity and inclusion have not been successful. By doing this, you’re challenging the existing norms that white men are far overrepresented in the boardroom. Board members and leadership should be highlighting this issue in their meetings and holding each other accountable for demonstrating inclusive leadership. Through these continued discussions, board members should develop strategies to ameliorate antiracism processes in the short and long run.
As consumers are looking to companies to take a stand against racism, corporate boards can be immediately reserving space for candidates from racially diverse groups. In a critical step towards antiracism, Levi Strauss & Co. publicly committed to appointing a Black board member. Additionally, 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 easily apply these methods by having their member nomination committees require and seek a more diverse applicant pool.
Grow Your Applicant Pool
Similarly to hiring applicants for a job, skills, experience, and knowledge are unquestionably important, but oftentimes, hiring managers will select the applicant that fits best with the current workplace culture. Boards should be looking to do the same by assessing what gaps in representation they may have in their board make-up, and find new ways to source and assess diverse candidates. Additionally boards should be looking to include candidates that meet most of their requirements. This step will, undoubtedly, lead boards to diversify and grow their applicant pools.
Sheila Ronning, founder and CEO of Women In The Boardroom – an organization founded with the goal of bridging the gender gap in the boardroom – is a recognized expert on boardroom diversity and leadership. Follow her on Twitter (Twitter @RonningSheila) or reach out to her at Sheila.Ronning@womenintheboardroom.com
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