Why a Diverse Board of Directors is a Better Board of Directors
By Dustin McKissen, June 12, 2017
Imagine the scenario: A board of directors talks about
attracting new customers from a specific demographic category, with no
representation from that demographic category at the table.
For many of us, it’s not hard to imagine. We’ve participated
in board meetings where we’ve talked about ways to get younger members
involved—with no younger members involved in the discussion. Or, we’ve
participated in board meetings where the discussion has focused on how a
business can more effectively market to specific minority communities—with no one
from those communities in the room.
How successful are those outreach efforts going to be?
Usually not very successful.
A group of older board members guessing what may appeal to
millennials without hearing from real, live millennials, or a group of male
board members brainstorming about how to attract more female customers is
probably not going to work.
Personally, I’ve witnessed this phenomenon time and again
when it comes to the way boards of directors talk about millennials. Because
there are often no millennials on a board, the conversation is almost always
fixed on a decade-old stereotype of a millennial. This stereotype fails to
recognize that the 24-year-old in 2007 is now 34, and statistically
speaking—even with the tendency of that generation to marry and have children
later—is likely to be a married parent who has long since traded their
skateboard for a minivan.
Yes, diversity matters for its own sake. For reasons of
equity and fairness, it is important that the leadership of an organization
reflect the stakeholders it serves. However, the millennial example illustrates
the fact that there is a bottom-line benefit to having a diverse board. If your
organization wants to attract millennial customers, members, or donors, having
board representation from that demographic is crucial.
Every board I’ve ever worked for has included smart,
talented, wise people—but the idea that 10 people from the same generation,
same income bracket, with the same educational level, who largely come from the
same gender, race, and class, have all the perspective needed to guide an
organization in an increasingly diverse world is just incorrect.
Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest
living generation. More women than men are attending college. There are about
60 million Hispanic people living in the United States. A board of directors
that recognizes these realities and works to actively increase diversity isn’t
just doing the right thing; it is doing the strategic thing. A board composed
entirely of older white males isn’t poorly constructed because there is
something inherently wrong with older white males; it’s poorly constructed
because it will lack the perspective of a growing number of stakeholders.
If you lead a community bank that wants to make customers
out of a growing Hispanic middle class, adding Hispanic entrepreneurs to your
board is a smart strategy. If you lead a trade association that wants to get
more millennial members, identifying millennial leaders and adding them to your
board will be far more effective than relying on articles written about
One way to help make your board more attractive to
millennials is by implementing technology that is familiar to younger
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