Over the years, the boardroom diversity discourse has matured: from women on boards, to other forms of observable diversity, and now diversity of experience and thought. Diversity of thought is perhaps the zenith (but difficult to measure), because complex problems—the type that boards most frequently need to consider and resolve—need to be investigated from many different angles. Rarely does one (only) solution exist. More often, multiple responses are available. The challenge for an effective board is to elicit a full range of options, and analyse them carefully before making the best possible decision. Different perspectives are crucial if high quality decisions are to be produced.
The boardroom diversity agenda is laudable because it shines the light on board performance. However, a darker perspective exists, as I discovered last week when the following comments were made in my hearing.
A person was recounting to their colleague a recent experience as a candidate for a board appointment. He said that he'd been short-listed following a rather intensive initial interview and discovery process, and that things were looking good with an interview with the full board expected. But then the discussion took an unexpected turn: the storyteller related these comments from the appointment committee chair:
You are a strong candidate, perhaps the best. Your skills and expertise, background and approach to team-based decision-making are great. However, we will not be taking you any further because we need to be seen to be meeting public expectations by advancing the diversity mix on the board. I hope you understand.
I walked away, stunned. Is this an isolated case of reverse discrimination (I hope so), or some new form of 'normal', a modern-day stocking of Noah's Ark?
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.