The calls for more diversity on company boards have become a cacophony. Researchers, commentators, shareholders, aspiring directors and wishful thinkers need to pause and take stock, lest political correctness, personal agendas and hearsay trump the real goal, that of driving company performance.
The most recent variant that I've seen is a call for increased diversity on selection panels, because this leads to more diverse appointments. Sorry, but I struggle with this. How will a more diverse panel result in a more diverse board (assuming of course that a more diverse board leads to increased company performance)? Surely, the primary goal of a selection panel is to appoint the best people to achieve the best result for the company and the shareholders—regardless of gender, creed, experience or any other 'diversity' attribute?
Many have jumped on the diversity bandwagon in recent years, presumably because a number of correlations between visible variables (notably gender, ethnicity, independent directors, split CEO/Chair, but there are others) and company performance have been identified. I agree that some correlations have been identified, but they are not universal across all cases by any means. In fact, the research results are mixed, and we must not forget that correlations are not causations.
The real challenge is to discover the underlying causal mechanism(s) that explain how boards actually influence company performance. I doubt the answer lies in the superficial correlations that have been observed to date. We need to dig deeper, beyond the current diversity arguments. We also need to admit that explaining how boards influence company performance is a very complex, socially dynamic problem—which means assertions that transient correlations are causal are unlikely to be correct.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and boardcraft; our place in the world; and other topics that catch my attention.