Inclusivity for Boards – What’s My Role?

governance transition May 11, 2021

- By Jane Halford

Recently, I was preparing to teach a governance course on board performance. I found many articles making the case for diversity on boards, but what I didn’t find easily is anything answering my question

“So, what do we do to maximize the talent within our boards – now, and in the future?”

In the past few years, I really started to look around at real or virtual faces of my board colleagues and wondered what we could do to fully tap into their career experience and personal wisdom. If we haven’t done it well in the past, how will we do much better as we welcome a broader range of individuals to our board work in the future?

In asking these questions, I have identified some commitments to maintain an inclusive board:

Learn more about each board member – What significant situations have they faced and how do they make the greatest impact in their work, family, and in the community? What is the untapped potential that is already here to build from?

Honour historical context – In working side-by-side with diverse board members, there is so much to personally learn about the historical context of each person.

"Honouring where each board member comes from allows for a deeper respect of their culture and how that influences the way they work."

Pick one focus and then move on to another. If you want a great place to start, check out Indigenous Canada or A Historic Conversation for Healing and Unity.

Be an active observer – Pay close attention to how you work as a board. What ways of “doing business” would exclude or include each board member from doing their best? The pandemic has been a great gift for that. For instance, I had the privilege of working with boards with much greater diversity than my own background: deaf and hearing impaired board members, individuals with severe mobility challenges, and Indigenous leaders in remote locations. In those situations, Zoom removed what would have limited us from deeply connecting. Do we truly want to go back to a fully physical boardroom and not have access to these impressive individuals?

Identify normalized behaviours that don’t serve everyone – What does your board do “normally” in your meetings that might not welcome everyone? A few weeks ago, I was shocked and disappointed in myself to learn some of the phrases I use have roots that are not aligned with my values. I was thankful to the courageous person who provided me with that insight. I can and will do better and you can too!

Once you’ve started addressing each of these things, don’t stop!

"Our boards need to do the work to expand our networks and seek out talented, diverse leaders."

When you’re looking for your next board member, keep asking around until you find someone you would not have met in a typical recruitment. Keep searching and you will uncover our country’s richness of humanity.

 

 

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