Increasing Board Diversity – Here’s How

There is much gloom today, but on a note of optimism many companies are striving to maintain focus on increasing and promoting diversity:

  • Black Lives Matter played a huge role here without a doubt
  • ESG is also a driver.  It is very difficult to present a credible ESG proposition in the absence of diversity
  • The evident link between cognitive diversity, innovation and agility serves as a powerful argument for shareholders and business leaders

In this vein, Dame Vivian Hunt, Senior Partner at McKinsey, recently made an impassioned call for greater Board diversity with an explicit link to stakeholder accountability:

  • Diverse Boards will be better able to demonstrate that stakeholder interests have been taken into account
  • In turn stakeholders will derive comfort from Board composition that is diverse and based on a good and fair process

This connection between diversity and stakeholder representation is increasingly articulated. For example, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, is a champion of diversity and argues that organisations and Boards representing London should reflect the gender and ethnicity mix of the London population.

Diversity is clearly multi-faceted: ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age and, of course, the holy grail of cognitive diversity.  Most Boards recognise the value of diversity; many Boards struggle to achieve it.

This challenge has been a core focus for Fidelio and over the past decade we have played an active and constructive role in promoting diversity, including enabling Boards to access a much broader pool of talented senior executives and directors. Indeed 50% of Fidelio Searches maintain or increase the diversity of the leadership team. Our experience is predicated upon Search, Evaluation and Development, including “A Seat at the Table” as well as our own first-hand experience – see ‘Not Enough Qualified Women. Nonsense!’.

Diversity is possible and for Boards struggling to make progress, Fidelio has identified three key enablers:

  1. Encourage Chair leadership – a Chair who is humble, can listen and recognises an echo chamber is essential to diversity
  2. Challenge group think – a Board that recognises the limits of its own cognitive diversity is fundamental to stakeholder accountability
  3. Be courageous – only a Board willing to use influence, authority, brain power and resource will have a fighting chance of diversifying the pipeline

If diversity receives the attention and focus of a major transformation, it can be achieved with evident benefit for employees, stakeholders and shareholders. Over the coming weeks Fidelio will deep dive into each of the enablers exploring practical case studies of what works with clients and organisations that lead the way.

To learn more about how Fidelio promotes diversity and inclusion through Search, Evaluation and Development please contact Gillian at gkarrancumberlege@fideliopartners.com.

For further details on Fidelio’s ESG Leadership GRID please contact Alistair at astranack@fideliopartners.com.

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