Boards need to have a broad array of skills to tackle the problems and complexity that confront organizations and businesses. Different board members offer the depth of knowledge, the variety of perspectives, and wealth of experiences required for productive discussions that lead to well-rounded decisions.

Many boards struggle to make this leap from “nice-to-have” to a requirement. The discussion about diversity in boardrooms focuses on ethnic and social background, as well as gender but the discussion needs to move beyond these categories to include a variety of professional backgrounds, abilities and experiences.

To achieve a diverse board, you need commitment and a change in thinking. Some trustees are not happy with the prospect of changing their traditional procedures, such as the tendency for nominating committees to cast their search at the same spots for new members. Boards can boost diversification by broadening their search options to include diverse communities, and sourcing candidates who have specific expertise in areas of greatest demand (for example consumer-oriented companies may seek marketing proficiency or an international company might require directors skilled in geopolitics) and establishing connections with candidates who are historically underrepresented well before the need arises.

The trustees who report having an more inclusive and diverse board culture claim that having the right mix of both social and professional diversity helps create a board environment where everyone’s opinions are respected. They state that a diverse board is better equipped to deal with the complexities facing their company, as well as those of its stakeholders and customers.

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