As most leading organizations in the world are working to be more deliberate and action-oriented than ever before about board diversification, it is critically important to be thoughtful and intentional in recruiting and retaining board members of color for the talents, skills and value each individual adds to the Board’s composition and effectiveness. Jim Taylor, vice president of leadership initiatives and education, leader of BoardSource’s efforts to position nonprofit boards for stronger leadership on diversity, inclusion, and equity, explains that “cultivating a truly inclusive board culture is the only way to effectively diversify the board.”
Reflecting on two occasions among thirteen opportunities in which he declined to join a board because he was disrespected during the board’s recruitment process, Taylor reflects on being tokenized by the recruiting Board member’s inability to describe what the organization thought he personally and professionally had to offer – beyond diversity. Noting that these stories are not meant to be discouraging but illuminative, Taylor says, “boards should be applying multiple lenses as they consider their needs; racial identity should be part of that consideration – but not all of it.” He goes on to offer three critical pieces of advice:
1. Reflect on the importance of diversity to your organization’s work, including identifying blind spots, current vs. optimal composition, and ensuring Board members can speak to why it matters for the Board to be diverse.
2. Expand and diversify your network of potential board candidates beyond existing recruitment networks, and be able to clearly articulate the multiple ways that candidates of color enable the board to fulfill its mission.
3. Build an inclusive and welcoming board culture across a full range of practices, from onboarding to committee work, from social gatherings to ensuring meetings welcome differing opinions, from leveraging insights proximate to those we serve and sustainably welcoming the fundamental change that diversity brings.
Overall, Taylor asserts that a thoughtful and intentional approach to planning and executing the process of recruiting people of color “honors the vital importance of the task to the board’s continued effectiveness and respects the full value of the skills and attributes people of color can bring to boards.”
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