I recently returned from San Francisco, where we held our first of four Diversity in the Boardroom events during 2012. The enthusiasm around this topic was infectious, and it reminded me of what NACD has been focused on for the past 35 years—creating strong, effective and efficient boards of directors.
While this topic is not new or unique for NACD—NACD has written numerous Blue Ribbon Commission research reports, white papers and handbooks over the years on almost every key process confronting boards—this topic is unique from an action and orientation perspective.
Without a doubt, nearly every director and aspiring boardroom leader I meet with during our programs agrees with the need for diverse, well-rounded boards of directors. One may or may not completely endorse the reports from Catalyst and other organizations regarding gender, race or ethnic diversity, but everyone does understand the need for true diversity in the boardroom.
True diversity in the boardroom comes from range of thought, background, perspectives, experience and skill sets. Framing this topic in this context unites the energy and passion around this topic.
So where do we go from here to realize the vision of diverse boards? NACD developed a five-point action plan last year during our Diversity in the Boardroom events called “Moving the Needle” to support this opportunity:
- Nominating/governance chairs and committee members and professional search/recruiting firms: Expand the definition of the “typical director.” While most boards seek CEOs of publicly traded companies, companies are restricting the number of boards their CEOs can sit on in addition to their company.
- Current directors: Every director should mentor and support the development of an executive who thinks, acts and looks differently than you do—not to create conflict, but to bring different views and skills into the boardroom.
- NACD: Support the development of aspiring and current directors within the context of leading (and next) boardroom practices, diversity and the current environment.
- NACD: Provide networking opportunities for aspiring diverse directors to connect with leading directors, and supplement their learning and mentoring.
- NACD: Conduct research to document the power of diversity in the boardroom.
With a supply of qualified, diverse board candidates, developed and augmented via the above five points, boards can move the needle.
I hope to see you during NACD’s remaining three Diversity in the Boardroom events during 2012:
Here’s to moving the needle.