Board diversity – how much progress have we really made? | Aprio
Board diversity

Board diversity – are we making progress? How board tech can help.

While North American boards are making strides every day to make sure their board members represent different genders, ages, skill sets, and ethnic backgrounds, the fact is that the majority of board members are male, white, and approaching retirement age.

Boards of directors tackle complex issues, and having a variety of voices around the table, especially ones not simply parroting the status quo, is in the best interest of every organization. In fact, bringing diverse board members into an organization and establishing an inclusive board culture to give them an equal voice are well-established competitive advantages. Research from McKinsey points to a strong correlation between gender and ethnic diversity and profitability and, research from Catalyst, a non-profit that studies women in the workplace, indicates that corporate boards with more women board directors outperform those without by at least by 53%.

Organizations are also becoming more demographically diverse, so it’s essential that boards adapt to reflect the employees, communities, and customers their organization serves.

We’ve taken a look at two of our favourite infographics to explore how far we’ve come, what there’s left to do, and how board portal software can help encourage diversity.  

More women are serving on Canadian boards

This infographic from The Directors College breaks down representation on boards by the numbers, pointing out that “at the current rate of change, it will take until 2097 to achieve gender parity on Canada’s boards.” 

The good news: nearly a quarter of board seats in Canada are now held by women.

The bad news: the numbers are truly dismal when you examine the representation of LGBTQ and Aboriginal peoples on boards in Canada. The former represents only 2.1% of board members and the latter 1.3%.

Board diversity infographic

Board recruitment in the U.S. has not kept pace with the need — and desire — for diversity

A Deloitte survey of 300 executives in the U.S. looked at the state of corporate boards and highlighted the need for boards that are not only diverse in gender and ethnicity, but diverse in skillsets and experiences (which leads to broader perspectives). Survey respondents said they knew a focus on diversity could give their organization a competitive advantage, but that knowledge hasn’t necessarily translated into action.

The good news: 95% of respondents in the survey agreed that their board needs to seek more candidates with diverse skills and perspectives.

The bad news: the methods boards are using to source and select candidates are contributing to the lack of diversity.

Board diversity in the US infographic

It’s obvious there’s work to do in North America. Here are two ways to boost diversity on your board

Examine your succession and recruitment strategies

To attract the type of board members you’ve never had before, you need to use strategies you’ve never used before. Boards tend to rely on recommendations from current members or their inner circle of contacts, but that’s likely only to result in the recruitment of similar types of people.

Traditional recruitment practices generally also rely heavily on candidates with C-suite experience and business skills, but do they have to? Consider seeking out candidates with unique backgrounds and experiences who will bring different viewpoints to tough conversations. Also take the time to think about what new directors from different backgrounds will expect from your board. Millennial directors will likely expect to use an intuitive software solution for managing board materials and meetings.

Make your board meeting software the great equalizer

While the first step is attracting diverse voices to your board, the key to keeping them there is ensuring that their voices are heard. Your goal should be to leverage all voices, not simply those that are the loudest.

Board portal software democratizes communication. Without a solution like Aprio board portal software, there’s always the risk that a director will fire off an email to one third of the board or have off-the-cuff discussions with one member on an important issue. This kind of selective communication hampers governance, especially for new directors, who may already feel outnumbered or intimidated.

When it’s time to cast a vote in between meetings, Aprio’s survey tools ensure all directors can be engaged from anywhere in the world and can cast a vote of the same weight. With Aprio board management software, you’ll know that all your directors, no matter their gender, age, or ethnic background, have the opportunity to contribute and tackle complex issues.

Interested in seeing Aprio in action? Book a demo today.

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