Thoughts on Board Diversity

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By Lucy Jacobs, Oliver Wight EAME  

Over the past few years gender diversity seems to have improved.  For a while it felt like there were a select group of NED’s who were on multiple boards to prop up the numbers, but this seems to have moved on

Which areas still need improvement (e.g disability, non binary etc, certain sectors?)

Regardless of industries there are companies that are really good with this, Cummins although heavy engineering, invested in STEM promotion many years ago and if you look at the board and senior leadership it has come on strides.  I think in some less progressive industries the ones that make the effort really attract the best talent from the less represented groups. There is still little representation of different abilities including mental health / neuro diverse etc. And accommodations that could open the recruitment pools wider should be considered. I think some companies are still really struggling to set the right tone on gender identification.  However, I’m just beginning to see some companies being clear on pronouns and starting to figure out how to be more open. I still see class as a challenge, compared to the population there are far fewer people from underprivileged backgrounds.  I can’t see that this is measurable though.

What are your views on quotas? is it just meaningless lip service or does it encourage companies to do more/do better?

Unfortunately, I believe that Quotas were needed to enforce action as unpalatable as I may find them.  I had a conversation with a board member on this years ago where I was arguing about the optics of promotion due to making up the numbers and he said that I was coming from a premise that the playing field is level and it isn’t and we have to even it.  Whether people acknowledge their biases or not they are present and this gives an environment of invisible privilege.

I  think companies need to embrace a more wholistic approach to recruitment and retention generally which means each and every employee is catered for. Managers should work with each individual to ensure they enjoy their job and are productive. By doing so this would naturally take care of diversity, ensuring everyone whoever they are and how they identify themselves are happy.


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