When discussing association board composition, it is important to consider the question: “What is the key function of a board of directors?” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a board of Directors as “a group of people who manage or direct a company or organization”. Although this definition is true, association leaders know that their board of directors plays a role in almost everything that happens within the association.
Boards are a fundamental component of association governance. They come together to strategize, enforce member compliance, mitigate risk, review and amend policies, and engage in member communication. Most importantly, the board makes decisions. For this reason, having a diverse board can offer insight, point of view, and expertise that, frankly, you will not encounter with a non-diverse Board.
When we think of diversity, we often think of cultural or ethnic diversity. However, sometimes we forget how perspectives can differ between people in different age groups, or different gender identity, or different locations.
According to Alliant International University’s blog, there are four types of diversity: internal diversity, external diversity, organizational diversity, and worldview diversity. Some examples of internal diversity are national origin, physical and mental ability, age, and sexual orientation. External diversity relates to things like education, appearance, personal interests, life experiences, and location. Organizational diversity takes into account one’s job junction, management status, seniority, and union affiliation. Finally, worldview diversity includes political beliefs, moral compass, and outlook on life.
These are all aspects that should be taken into account when building a board of directors. The more diverse the perspectives around the board table, the more members your board can serve. With this in mind, I have put together five reasons why diversity is healthy for the boardroom.
Healthy Problem-Solving and Decision Making
When a team member challenges our ideas, our perspective is stretched. In a boardroom setting, this can often lead to healthy debate. These debates will result in a more well-rounded decision-making process, and ultimately, smarter decisions.
Read Boards and Ethical Decision Making for more information on how boards can succeed with healthy problem solving.
Diversity Will Challenge the Status Quo
As Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” This is true for the board room as much as anywhere else. As technology and the world around us changes, the last response members want to hear from their board is “because this is how we’ve always done it”. A diverse board will produce innovative minds and inspire progressive change that will continue to allow your association to avoid stagnancy and keep up with the forever changing industry.
Diversity Offers Better Access to Your Membership Base
Your membership base is constructed of real people from the real world. A diverse board that reflects your membership base is imperative for an association who aims to reflect and respond to the varying needs of its members.
Diversity will boost your Board’s productivity.
If a team of people are all equipped with the same skills and experiences, their productivity is limited. By broadening your board recruitment pool, your association will bring a variety of skills and knowledge to the table, thus boosting productivity whatever is on the agenda!
Higher Membership Engagement
Board diversity also plays a role in member motivation and retention. You want your board members to have a diverse frame of reference to meet the needs of your members. When your members feel accepted, valued, and empowered by their board of directors, they are happier, more motivated, and are far more likely to get involved. Come member renewal time, your members will look back on the previous year and value the relatability and active engagement they received from their board. This will be a big incentive to come back year after year!
Ultimately, the value that a diverse board will bring to your association and your members is immeasurable. Providing your members with a board who is receptive, innovative, and progressive will keep them renewing long into the future.
Read this article by my colleague for more information on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion training in the board room.