Sunday, April 7, 2013

Let’s look through another lens on Boardroom Diversity

I was reading the April addition of the Company Director Magazine and come across an interview with Kathleen Conlon who talked to Tony Featherstone about boardroom diversity, the risks of policy on the run, strategy formation and how emerging directors can find their first board position.  
By way of background, Kathleen Conlon is a management consultant and board director who is known as a global thought leader in operational and change management.

I was heartened to read her comments about boardroom diversity. She points out how compared to other professional services such as law and accounting, the consulting industry provides fewer board directors. She argues this is puzzling given the need for a director to be able to assess and test complex organisational strategies with limited information and time.
She also contends that too many boards have a narrow specification for directors. This is an issue that emerged at both our Engaging of Young Leaders on Aged Care Boards Unconventions (“Finding Potential” and “Innovation on Aged Care Boards: Challenge Yourself”). 

Conlon contends that rather than focus on those with operational experience the focus should be on board members attributes: the ability to think independently, be curious, work well in a team setting and be a leader. I support her views and argue that when organisations recruit board members, we need to consider the types of question to ask to illicit this information from potential candidates. I also suggest to our young leaders – think about how you can demonstrate these attributes when you are being interviewed for a board or committee position.

I have strong views about the need to engage young leaders on Boards and Conlon has strong views on the gender diversity debate. One of our common denominators is ‘groupthink’. Conlon argues that the treat of quotas for women on boards is needed to maintain pressure on companies who lag behind on this issue; she suggests that if this is lifted all the recent good on this issue could be undone.

I am left pondering…
  • Do we need to have age quotas on our Boards and committees?
  • What are the conversations we need to have and who with?
  • Are we seeking to shift the common sense ( the background of possibilities and understanding)
  • Are we seeking to shift standard practices and processes - doing what we already do better with new value?
  • Are our young leaders ‘new offers’ to any boards or committees. Are young leaders the new competitive value or are they new ‘strategies’ for changing the board game?
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