Gender Diversity on Boards
There are tangible benefits that a well balanced Board can, and does, have on decision making and consequently organisational performance.
In 2012, the Human Rights Commission predicted New Zealand would not achieve gender balanced Boards until 2046.
A number of recent initiatives such as mentoring programmes, targets championed by business leaders and politicians, and NZX disclosure and reporting have seen some success. However, this progress has been slow.
Some might argue that there needs to be more rules and quotas, but quotas can undermine merit based appointments, resulting in less effective Boards. Rather than quotas, we need to continue with initiatives such as mentoring and talent development, and focus on creating a merit based culture that supports inclusion and diversity.
Concurrently, we also need to tackle getting skill diversity on Boards, as this will throw open the talent net and by default lead to gender diversity.
Another way to create an inclusive and diverse culture is to address unconscious bias, as this can contribute to poor decision making in the Board room through phenomena such as group think. Bias can come in different forms, for example we can stereotype, or tend to gravitate towards those who are similar to us and to favour those who we like.
A lack of Board diversity can indicate unconscious bias influencing decision making about Board appointments. This could mean the composition of the Board may not actually be based on what the company needs, and therefore not be as effective as it could be.
The challenge is to overcome our biases, both conscious and unconscious. If we harness all our talent through inclusion and diversity of skill, then organisational competitive advantage can follow.