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Boardrooms Must Embrace Diversity

Updated: May 16, 2023

senior white senior leader speaking into a microphone
Male dominated boardrooms damage company image.

It is said that slow progress, is still progress.... but that often depends! Slow progress on developing boardroom diversity is impeding inclusion across business.

The negative connotations associated with a uniform, executive environment and far-reaching and not in line with the needs of a progressive society.

Gender inclusion is lacking in the boardroom. Race is poorly represented at the highest levels of industry. Decades of anti-discriminatory legislation appears not to have had the desired effect of promoting and valuing diversity within the boardroom.

Advocates of D&I have been vociferous in their condemnation of this sluggish inclination to embedding diversity. They are increasingly forthright in their reproof of behaviours, that serve to restrain true inclusion.

The IMF's Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, recently spoke of the need for diversity in a fast-changing and complex environment. Stating that female leaders are key to global prosperity, Ms. Lagarde said that organisations that operate through a diverse lens are more likely to succeed.

On gender, Ms. Lagarde noted that:

When there are 50% women and 50% men, they should want to mirror society, because it is their constituencies, membership or customer base. Given there is equal talent, irrespective of gender, why should any group not want to access that big pool of talent

Activities and organisational cultures that maintaining the status quo, fuelled by a nostalgia of the 'good old days' are losing traction. Mantras of ' how we do things around here' no longer inspire a sense of belonging, in the ways they perhaps did.

Things are changing.... and changing fast.

Disquiet around Boardroom Diversity

As concerns increase about the lack of boardroom diversity, the chances of negative publicity and the metaphoric, self imposed suicide, of brands increase.

You see the world is changing and the drive for inclusion and resistance to all forms of inequality is heightened.

Employees at Google staged a global walkout in protest of claims against systemic racism, gender inequality and sexual harassment at the company.

This action, clearly raised eyebrows and garnered mass support from advocates of inclusion across the world.

Employment Law expert, Thalis Vlachos, has written on the subject, asking the question: Is this a sign of things to come. His article examines possible implications of the walkout in relation to the specific demands made by the Google employees.

Indications are that the populous will be increasingly supportive of such actions, as globalisation increases and diversity and inclusion issues dominate public discourse around the world.

Companies must embrace diversity, inclusion and fair treatment. It must be an openly visible element of company culture.

Playing Rhetorical Gymnastics - Boardroom Diversity

The conundrum that boards face is one of keeping established operational and management practices, whilst and attracting and supporting diverse candidates, in a very new one.

The undeniable truth is that companies, on the whole, have a poor reputation of recruiting inclusively, especially at boardroom levels.

The image of industry, at boardroom level, is white male-dominated. This is in stark contrast to the customers and clients that these companies serve! Morally and economically, this is unfair and is in opposition to the image that many companies would like to portray themselves.

The homogeneous boardroom is outdated and damaging to brand image. It does little to promote inclusion and diversity of thought.

This being the case, how can corporate workplaces attract and retain best in class talent from a talent base that is void of exclusivity in terms of its race, gender, sexuality or physical ability? How can industry increase the relevance of decisions that impact the bottom line and enable the business to expand across borders in challenging economic times?

Perception is everything. Generation Z is entering the workforce and is pushing demand for change. They have grown up in a digital age, where their understanding of diversity, and demand for it, is very different to what future generations have faced.

Managing group think, in an effort to redress gender imbalance, is a precursor to embedding diverse and inclusive recruitment.

Countless studies have called time of lack of diversity and inclusion in some of the largest global corporations. Indeed, a recent review highlighted practices that serve to exclude women from some of the UK’s leading companies.

Why is Boardroom Diversity Important?

Boardroom diversity is the making of great business. Attracting diverse talent is all the rage at the moment! It is a critical concern for society that wants to ensure fairness and equality business boardrooms around the world across the world.

Corporate diversity and inclusion is high on the agenda, both in the UK and the US. It is steadily becoming a recurring agenda item within political discourses of fairness.

Corporate diversity is a global agenda

As public scrutiny around issues of diversity and inclusion continues to increase, seemingly unabated, it focuses on a new reality.

Corporate diversity is now part of a global business discourse.

Executive recruitment is serious business! The wheels of economies turn within the boardroom, powered by decisions that make or break business and impact on the livelihoods of workers everywhere.

Flexibility within recruitment, helps companies to attract, develop and manage inclusion to support diverse talent. By developing a flexible approach, talent acquisition partners can create an inclusive process for the attraction of diverse candidates.

This will help to include, develop, and retain, best in class talent. from culturally and socially diverse backgrounds.

Flexibility is important to including a wide range of people who may have caring responsibilities, which mean that long, inflexible hours can preclude them applying for executive positions.

drawing of a lightbulb on a blackboard referring to recruitment
A flexible approach to recruitment aids inclusion

The Treasury Committee has called on Financial firms to do more to encourage flexible working and root out unconscious bias. It urged the City to tackle alpha male culture in order to boost diversity.

Similarily, recent research points to huge gender disparity across the 10 largest global pharmaceutical companies, by revenue, within executive committee and board of directors.

Issues, including the gender and race pay gap, do little to promote inclusion or engender trust and build a brand image that is committed to inclusion. Employees and prospective candidates need to feel that the process of progressing through a business is nurturing and importantly, accessible to all.

The Boston Consulting Group's (BCG) latest report 'Why your Diversity Strategy needs to be more Diverse' highlights the need for employers to diversify their diversity strategy and select interventions that address the root causes of workplace inequalities.

This is an extremely important element of the employer to employee relationship and helps to develop trust and transparency around all diversity initiatives.

Lack of Gender Diversity in Boardrooms

Boardrooms must develop sustainable frameworks and well managed processes to enable gender diversity, and inclusion.

Women comprise over half of the world’s population and more that half of university graduates. However, they remain under-represented at board level. A cultural shift, in the minds of senior executives, is needed to end the marginalisation of women to lower ranks in the business sector.

Alongside this, a re-framing of organisational culture to build inclusion, is often necessary to embed diversity and replace outdated practices that promote exclusivity.

a diverse group of women in suits all smiling
Women add value to key business decisions

Processes that govern the development of knowledge and skills and support the progression of women into executive positions, act as strategic enablers to providing access to board level positions.

A genuine commitment to foster the leadership development of women and the ascension of women to Boardroom is needed.

An authentic belief in the utility of gender and racial diversity, supported by flexibility will allow companies to embed diverse and inclusive processes to secure the business benefits of inclusion and diversity.

It will support a program of process development to develop more effective frameworks to enhance business results through increased creativity and better business decisions.


The undeniable truth is that companies, on the whole, have a poor reputation of recruiting inclusively, including at the boardroom level. This being the case, companies must embrace inclusion, as relevant, in their decision making.

The image of industries at the boardroom level is white male-dominated, yet consumers, clients, and customers. This is in stark contrast to the customers and clients that these companies serve!

Morally and economically, this is unfair and is in opposition to the image that many companies would like to portray themselves. Whilst the reasons for this are many, and complex, it is clear that society is moving away from this status quo and seeks an environment that is open, transparent, and inclusive.

No more glass ceiling. No more quotas for diversity. No more piecemeal activities. Business that want to survive must embed inclusion.

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Further reading: Businesses are realising the power of diversity and inclusion and how it enables them to remain relevant in changing economic environments. Read our recent diversity blog post entitled: The Future is Investing in Diversity

Kenroi Consulting is a bespoke diversity consultancy providing tailor made solutions for businesses across the UK.

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