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Why Aren’t More Women Being Selected as Board Members?

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Diversifying The Boardroom — A Business Imperative!.png

It’s 2016, and the workforce has become more diverse to include people of different genders, races, sexual orientations and abilities. While this is increasingly true, there’s obviously still room for additional growth in diversity. There’s also one critical area the business world that still remains whitewashed and male dominated: the boardroom.

If you walk into any board meeting, it’s very likely that you’ll find a room filled, predominantly, with older, white men.

It’s how it’s always been: “the good old boys club,” so to speak, gathered together to make important decisions about business strategy. Remember though, it’s 2016. Where are the women? Where’s the diversity of gender, race, and other backgrounds that can help ensure that these important business decisions are based on broad input?

According to Emily Peck’s Huffington Post article “Stop Saying There Are No Qualified Women Out There,” women only hold 20 percent of board seats. That is a shockingly low number considering how diverse the workplace is, and also given the tendency of women to make most household purchase decisions. 

So why aren’t more women being selected as board members?

Peck cites a study published by Spencer Stuart (an executive recruiting firm), the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation and Harvard researchers. The study surveyed current board members about their thoughts on why there isn’t more diversity (specifically in regard to gender) in boardrooms. According to the study, “The primary reason cited by men (particularly older ones) was a ‘lack of qualified female candidates.’”

Female board members, however, perceived things differently. They believe the lack of diversity is because “directors don’t prioritize diversity,” and because “…predominantly male networks of corporate directors fail to uncover qualified women.” Peck also notes, “Men under 55 years old were less likely to see a lack of qualified women as a problem, naming male-dominated social networks as the primary factor holding women back.”

In other words, many boards fail at being inclusive of diversity because the older men in the room are, primarily, from networks that include other older men. They either still aren’t used to seeing women as successful and qualified equals, or they don’t travel in the same circles as these women. Either way, their unconscious biases are preventing corporate boards from thriving and growing through the diversity and inclusion that can generate new ideas. The truth is, there are plenty of qualified women who deserve to have seats at the table, and it’s about time we gave them those seats.

For some people, old habits die hard. If you’re trying to convince your board to create more diversity, pitching the idea to them as a business strategy. Greater diversity will provide the board with broader, more innovative ideas to help grow the company. Women (and other minority groups) will also be able to give the board insights into other demographics that represent your organization’s target markets. If your goal is to increase your company’s bottom line, diversifying your board can be a great way to do so.

Build a diverse board—inclusiveness is a business imperative!

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