I have the good fortune of serving on corporate boards with white directors who understand the value of having diversity, equity and inclusion embedded in our board culture and operations. When we discuss new board members, all of my boards have members whose genuine interest is obvious and who realize that our organizations benefit from people from different backgrounds.
Of course it is easy to become cynical and assume that companies are only interested in checking the “diversity box.” And it may be true that the racial backlash that seems to be growing in certain sectors of society is equally present in corporate boardrooms. But good corporate governance is guided and informed by data. And all available data indicate that diverse corporate leadership on a governance level is important for successful corporate endeavor, in an increasingly diverse country and ever expanding international presence.
Globalization of supply chains, outsourcing of labor and international marketing of goods and services are examples of the compelling case to be made for diverse corporate leadership. While some observers may dismiss efforts to diversify corporate boards as “political correctness” or worse, those on the inside of the corporate nominating and governance committees understand the necessity of expanding their recruitment strategies and identifying talent that can add value to their company pursuits. The old boys clubs are no longer adequate sources for identifying corporate directors.
Of course, no corporate board is willing to compromise on quality as new directors are being considered. After serving on eight corporate boards during the last 30 years and advising many companies during that time, I have never met an executive or a board that wants to make a “window dressing” appointment of a director simply to appear diverse. Every board is sensitive to the need for every director to be familiar with governance issues including risk, ethics, governance, compensation, audit, strategic planning and finance. Whether the company is a private or public company, every board wants to know that a prospective candidate is qualified to be a director.
Being qualified has two dimensions. First, one’s qualifications have to do with professional training, experience and subject matter expertise. Someone that is an expert in cyber security will be in high demand for the majority of corporate boards today. But qualifications also include understanding corporate governance. In other words, is the prospect “board-ready”?
To be board-ready means understanding board process, consensus building, being collegial without succumbing to group think. To be board-ready means knowing the difference between policy making and management. To be board-ready means to understand and embrace board culture as opposed to simply specializing in one’s own culture. Most directors wish they had been a bit more “board ready” before assuming their first directorship.
That is why I focus on helping high performing executives and entrepreneurs become board ready. That is how we will create a pipeline and be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that are opening for diverse corporate directors. Join the waitlist here for the next cohort of my How To Become a (Paid) Corporate Director Program.