Nancy Sheppard’s tips to increase gender inclusion in the board room

Published: 14/04/2015

This list was part of a presentation by Nancy Sheppard, founder & CEO, Women2Boards and Jeffry Powell, EVP, Diligent Board Member Services, on Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: What’s the Hold Up? at the NYSE Governance Services West Coast Boardroom Summit on February, 27, 2015. 

What can be done by board members to bring more women into the boardroom?

  1. Develop and monitor a diversity strategic plan for directors, including skills, experience, gender, age and ethnicity. Provide details on the plan in the SEC filings.
  2. Set a goal for a percentage of qualified candidates presented by search firms or nominating committee that are women and minorities (20-30% minimum) and should aim to interview at least one.
  3. Support awareness and educational programs for high-level, high-potential women and minorities for possible next step in a career. Either through the corporation itself, or through third parties.
  4. Ask a director of your company (or another board’s director) to act as a mentor for one of your top women/minorities interested in gaining a board position.
  5. Tap into the increasing number of board registries (including NACD, business schools, Global Ready Board Women thru LinkedIn, CalPers, Board Prospect and Women2Boards) to expand your circle of candidates.
  6. Make a conscious effort to avoid adding board members with backgrounds similar to the profile of the majority of board members.
  7. Be aware of unconscious biases in seeking new candidates. Research shows we all like to hire and associate with people like us.
  8. Men and women both must be strong advocates for women on boards.  The HeforShe philosophy advocated by UN last year highlights why we need to be gender allies. Women on boards will have more influence on bringing more women by joining the nominating committee.
  9. Take a pro-active role in promoting your pro-diversity actions beyond standard press release when women and minorities join the board.
  10. Refreshing the board with new and appropriate talent means that the board needs to have annual individual director evaluations in connection with re-nomination decisions.
  11. Expand the size of the board in advance of a planned departure.
  12. Adopt “independence” term limits.

Diversity is just the first step, inclusion is the goal. Once you do have women and minorities on the board, to get the most out of your new diversity, there must be an inclusive effort. There is a big difference between diversity and inclusiveness such that diversity is more about having different people, and inclusiveness is more about making these people count.

What other ways has your board been pro-active to bring diversity and inclusion into your boardroom?

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