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Under the skin and over the barriers of diversity.

BELIEVE that diversity is a key contributory factor in good governance.

ISince the last Diversity in the Boardroom Supplement was published in 2016, the discourse on diversity has not slowed in its intent or profile, always encouraging the improvement of our engagement of individuals from a range of backgrounds and with a breadth of experience.

Findings from PwC's 2018 Corporate Directors Survey concluded that 94 per cent of its directors said that diversity "brings unique perspectives to the boardroom," whilst 84 per cent "say it enhances board performance."

If this is the case, why are we still in a position where just over 12 months after the publication of the Parker Review on ethnicity and seven years after the publication of the first Davies Report on the lack of women on boards, there are still boards that do not reflect the communities that they serve? If we recognise that diversity is good for business, why in 2018 did the Hampton-Alexander review find that views such as: "We have one woman already on the board, so we are done - it is someone else's turn" and "I don't think women fit comfortably into the board environment" are still prevalent amongst chairs and chief executives of FTSE 350 companies? If diversity "brings unique perspectives in the boardroom," why in 2017 was the Sports People's Think Tank able to report that despite there being up to 30 per cent representation of BAME players in football, only 3.3 per cent of managers and head coaches who influence the game from the top are from those same BAME backgrounds? Why, according to Third Sector, are only five per cent of charity trustees aged under 35 when, according to the 2011 census, 29 per cent of the overall population in England and Wales were aged 18 to 39? In 2018, we still have to ask the question why and I contest that this is not good enough.

While progress has been made, widely reported in relation to gender and on the rise related to ethnicity, there remains a gaping hole when comparing the statistical census type data with the reality of what we see around the table in boardrooms across all sectors.

Furthermore, many of the high profile reports focus on what is happening at the top of the business sector - across the FTSE, with little to no focus as to what happens beyond.

You may recall that in the last Diversity in the Boardroom Supplement, I raised the challenge of us considering what happens beyond the FTSE where there is no best practice or market regulation to ensure diversity becomes the rule and not the exception.

Yet still, beyond the FTSE and within we find a piecemeal approach sometimes complied with in order to conform, rather than because of a belief that it is a crucial business imperative.

I now set the challenge of asking if this is enough.

Many of you will be familiar with Rudyard Kipling's Six Serving Men - who, what, where, when, why and how. In my determination to see boards everywhere become diverse, I want us to collectively take a look at these questions to see how we can get under the skin and over the barriers of a lack of diversity in the boardroom in order to accelerate the progress we have made so far.

Who When considering diversity, we acknowledge the need to have a breadth and range of backgrounds and experience.

We must be careful, however, not to replace a woman or an individual from an ethnic minority with someone who has the same background, skills and experiences of the person they are replacing.

Finding the who is not a search for a token representative but the pursuit of someone with the relevant skills and experience and a different perspective.

In his book, Good to Great - Why Some Companies Make The Leap And Others Don't, Jim Collins teaches the principle of the 'who' before the 'what' and concludes that: "leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with "where" but with "who."

They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."

What In order to fix the problem, it must first be recognised and accepted that a problem exists. You must also measure where you are - doing this only annually will help you to take stock of where you are.

Before we can do the work required to promote lasting change, we must recognise what the problem is.

I have come across organisations that failed to see how a board where the members were all white British, aged over 60 and entirely male were problematic.

Why is this problematic? Well, in 2010 data published by Race for Opportunity reported that over 12 per cent of the population in the West Midlands alone were from non-white backgrounds.

How can organisations with this mindset effectively serve the entire community if people who do not reflect those backgrounds undertake the decision-making? Where So, where does diversity need to change? The simple answer is everywhere!

In the FTSE, beyond the FTSE, in sport, in education, in politics, in the private, public and voluntary sectors. On large and complex boards, on the trustee boards of small charities, in hospitals, in arts organisations, in housing. It must change everywhere.

When In his bestselling book Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson scribes a charming parable of four characters battling with the concept of change.

In the first chapter, a group of classmates are discussing change the night before their high school reunion. In this narration, one of the classmates explained how he: "changed the way I looked at change - from losing something to gaining something."

Oftentimes, we don't change because we are fearful of what the change will bring. So we wait and we wait and we procrastinate.

When you consider that the buck stops with the board of any organisation in any sector, seemingly messing with the balance of what has always worked can feel daunting.

But, if we can reframe how we see change from being a loss, or an uncertainty to seeing change (improved diversity on boards) as gaining something, we'd do it now.

Why Recently, when delivering a visiting professor lecture at Birmingham City University, questions were raised about the barriers to young people being able to sit on boards.

Whilst it is recognised that older board members with a wealth of experience in their professional lives who can translate this crucial experience into the boardroom are valuable assets on any board, I'd ask if organisations should consider reallocating their roles to an advisory capacity, thus creating vacancies for younger, competent individuals? Millennials and Gen Z are changing the way the world thinks, moves and breathes. They can bring this flair and innovation to the boardroom to ensure that the fiduciary duty the board has is efficacious.

This is especially true when considering the impact emerging and disruptive technologies will have in our boardrooms over the next twenty years. Similarly, people from different backgrounds bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience to help improve the diversity of thought needed to stand the test of time.

how The how of diversity lies in the essence of the Diversity in the Boardroom Pledge.

The talent pipeline is the future boardroom.

If this pipeline is not given the full attention required, it will become blocked.

In the aforementioned Hampton-Alexander Review, one interviewee stated that: "We need to build the pipeline from the bottom - there just aren't enough senior women in this sector."

I wonder if after making this observation, any steps were taken to improve that pipeline.

The how will come to pass when we actively embed the findings and recommendations from the vast array of published work on diversity into conscious practice.

When it becomes a constant feature in workplace culture - not for the sake of tokenism but because of the benefits and because it's the right thing to do, we will have got the how right.

There is no archetypal human and we are not yet at the point where we can replace board members with robots, programming the right backgrounds and experiences into them to create perfect boards!

Therefore, we have no choice but to ensure we do the work of making boards more diverse for the good of business, the goods and services we give and receive and for the future.

I'd like to thank The Birmingham Post and all of the organisations that have taken the Diversity in the Boardroom Pledge to date for their continued commitment to this important issue.

Special thanks also to all of the organisations that supported the supplement and helped us to continue to showcase the work being done across the region to improve diversity on boards, making this a better place to live and work.

Dr Karl George MBE is Managing Director at the Governance Forum, an international governance consultant, a visiting professor and experienced NED.

'' We have no choice but to ensure we do the work of making boards more diverse for the good of business, the goods and services we give and receive and for the future Dr Karl George MBE


Dr Karl George MBE, Managing Director at the Governance Forum
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 15, 2018
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