Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Training for Boards – Not Just a Compliance Exercise | Jackson Lewis CP

The most powerful leadership tool you have is your personal example.” John Wood

Boards of directors play a central role in building an organization that champions, values ​​and capitalizes on diversity, inclusion and equity. Boards need to be mindful of how they present themselves. The growing climate of intolerance that has emerged in recent years has made it clear that there is a leadership imperative to address issues of inequality within the communities served. Divisions across economic, racial, religious and political lines have created an increasingly polarized population that needs reinvigoration. The thorny issues and tumultuous undercurrents at the intersection of issues involving race, gender and sexuality call for deep reflection as we seek to understand one another.

The leadership of the board of directors on this point is important. Boards can intentionally broaden their thinking on this point through training. While greater board diversity is an important goal and enhances a board’s ability to meet these growing challenges, the reality is that many companies are struggling to make progress in this regard. Even if board diversity requirements are not yet enforced (as in California and Washington), training in diversity, inclusion, and equity can help leaders and executives in the advice to become more culturally competent, empathetic and self-aware. For these reasons, board diversity and inclusion training should be a top priority.

Responsible board members spend time working diligently to understand historical and current disparities, injustices, and inequities in order to seek continuous improvement. Participating in diversity, inclusion and equity training and engaging in open discussions about implicit biases can give board members insight to help organizations understand the context in which they work and how best to prioritize resources and strategies based on these realities. Awareness of systemic inequities can allow a board to build the mental muscle to help the organization it serves avoid and overcome blind spots that produce misguided strategies and, instead, create powerful opportunities for deeper impact. , relevance and advancement of the organization.

In 2021, 78% of newly elected directors were white. As a first step, boards take many approaches to building a diverse and inclusive group of directors. Training can eradicate the myth that there aren’t enough qualified diverse candidates to fill board seats. To diversify board members, board searches must diversify the search for candidates. This may require going beyond the traditional practice of board recruitment, such as searching the internal circles of those currently serving on the board. Cast a wider network, broaden the search to include nonprofit or government candidates as potential board members of for-profit companies, review MBA programs, executive leadership programs, and associations professionals, as well as academic executives from local colleges and universities, can help a council tap into diverse perspectives, identities, and life experiences that might prove to be a welcome and celebrated addition to a council.

Tracking and measuring diversity, inclusion and equity efforts with an action plan can help keep focus on achieving goals. Entrusting this work to a planning and oversight committee of the board can be very effective. An extended commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is essential, as this work is not accomplished through one-session training. Accountability reviews can help a board stay the course on this front.

Diversity brings value. The effort is worth it, because the decisions made by a diverse group are more likely to be superior to those made by homogeneous groups. Ultimately, boards need diversity of thought.