Change in company culture starts at the top.
What happens in the boardroom can foster a corporate culture that embraces and advances diversity. If you want to cultivate diversity, equity, and inclusion at your company, start by intentionally incorporating diversity into your board member recruitment process. This can boost your boardroom by introducing new perspectives, improving stakeholder relations, and enhancing your board’s overall performance, according to PwC’s 2021 Annual Corporate Directors Survey.
Why diversify your board member recruitment?
A majority of today’s directors believe that action is needed to increase board diversity, according to the 2021 PwC data. That’s a significant increase from 2020, when 71 percent of directors suggested they believed boards would “naturally become more diverse on their own over time.”
And with calls/mandates for boardroom diversity from investors, lawmakers, and major stock indices on the rise, companies who incorporate diversity into their board recruitment best practices now will likely be ahead of their competition.
Considering that the percentage of board directors from racial minority groups remains low—5 percent of directors at the country’s largest companies are Black and only 3 percent are Latinx, per the PwC survey—it’s clear that recruiting diverse candidates will take intentionality.
It’s likely previous strategies for recruiting board members won’t propel your organization forward. Instead, consider implementing these board recruitment best practices to work toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.
Board recruitment best practice #1: Clarify your board’s mission and values
Recruiting diverse board members begins with clearly stating your organization’s values. It’s simple. If you want to recruit a new board member who values diversity, your company needs to demonstrate that it also values diversity. Plus, a clear mission statement supports your board’s efficiency, productivity, and cohesion.
Often, this means your company’s proxy and purpose statements will need to be updated to ensure they adequately address the board’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Lay out the steps your organization is taking to promote diversity in the boardroom and in the workplace. If your organization is just beginning its journey toward a more diverse boardroom, be up front about that fact. Your transparency could create space for a new, innovative, and diversity-focused board member to step in.
Checklist for your board of directors recruitment materials:
- Update board of director job description to include language about director’s commitment to DEI.
- Remove bias from job descriptions. The use of “masculine” wording such as “superior” or “competitive” can result in fewer female applicants, per the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Instead, use language that directly ties to job performance.
- Update interview questions to reflect diversity as a priority. For example, ask prospective board members why boardroom diversity is important and what steps they recommend to cultivate a more diverse culture.
Set clear metrics for board member evaluation. Define the measurable qualities you’re looking for in a new board member. According to the PwC research, the top attributes companies look for in new board members includes racial/ethnic diversity, industry expertise, operational expertise, and gender diversity, respectively.
Evaluate your current board composition and, together, envision what it could and should look like in the next two, three, or four years. Now, it’s time to craft a plan to get there.
Board recruitment best practice #2: Create a diversity-focused search committee
Prepare your organization for board member recruitment by first reassessing the search committee’s approach to recruiting new board members. It’s imperative that the search committee itself is committed to diversity, otherwise your search may be unsuccessful.
Ensure the board of directors recruitment team understands the value of diversity in the boardroom and reflects as diverse a group of board members as possible. If your committee lacks the diversity you’re looking for (after all, that’s why you’re now recruiting diverse board members), try to at least identify the DEI champions in your organization and bring them into the board member recruitment process.
Once the board member search committee is set, apply the same evaluation to your interview panel and any other groups or individuals involved in the board member recruitment process.
Board recruitment best practice #3: Expand your search
Now that you’ve clarified your commitment to diversity and reshaped your board member recruitment process, it’s time to start actually recruiting diverse board members.
Recruiting new board members involves broadening your search. In fact, “expanding the search just one or two levels below the C-suite opens up a world of qualified candidates who can make great directors,” according to the Harvard Business Review. So, how exactly do you do that?
While you can start out by tapping traditional executive search firms and leveraging your personal network, keep in mind that both of these options are by nature exclusionary. Each relies on preexisting networks that often leave out marginalized groups of executives. Instead of relying on the same tools that have garnered the same results, it's time to try a new, dynamic approach to board member recruitment.
If you want to expand your candidate pool to include experienced, qualified executives of all backgrounds, AboveBoard is for you. We're on a mission to shift executivw hiring from traditional closed-network processes to an open and fair model that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our network of board members and executives from underrepresented groups, including Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and women, can help you take tangible steps toward diversity in your boardroom.
Ready to connect with diverse, qualified board member candidates? Start hiring with AboveBoard
At AboveBoard, we believe long-lasting, impactful change begins at the top. That’s why we’re on a mission to expand access to boardrooms and C-suites for underrepresented executives. Our network of more than 25,000 highly-qualified, self-identified underrepresented executives can help you deliver on your diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives from the top down.
Partner with us today and get started on recruiting diverse board members.