I entered the world of executive recruitment with the perspective I gained over twenty years in the boardroom. My journey along the corridors of corporate power demonstrates how tough it has been for the boardroom to reflect the ethnic and gender diversity visible in today’s society. I do not believe this is a deliberate strategy as most organisations understand the importance of serving their customers well, of being competitive in the marketplace, of protecting and growing a financially robust organisation and of developing and motivating their workforce. To the contrary, many clients that use the services of Moon Consulting Ltd, the Bristol-based search and selection firm where I am a non-executive consultant, request a diverse shortlist and actively seek minority ethnic and female candidates. As trusted and respected advisors, we are not fazed by this request and have the contacts, networks and skill to meet search mandates of this type. We have demonstrated our ability to widen the pool of candidates and represent an amazing selection of qualified and capable candidates from diverse backgrounds that can drive their business forward.
I do not support quotas to achieve diversity. However, I am aware of how painfully slow it has been for many organisations to achieve diversity on their Boards, whether these roles are executive or non-executive. From my perspective, UK PLC flourishes when led by a diverse, capable and flexible board, especially in these competitive economic times.
The Scale of The Challenge
There is a difference in the composition of public, private and third sector boards. Furthermore, there is little movement of executives and non-executives from third or public sector to private sector boards.
- In 2011, 50% of the working age population, and 56 per cent of people of state pension age, were women. A survey of FTSE 100 companies reported that 12.5% of their directors were females. Of FTSE 250 boards, only 7.8% were women.
- The 2011 census revealed that 14% of people living in the UK are non-white. When surveyed, 12% of chief executives in the country’s top 50 charities were of minority ethnic and only 30% were female. Among trustees of these same charities, only 8% were of minority ethnicity and 36% female. The same year more than 40% of the population of London and more than 10% of managers, directors and senior officials are from a minority ethnic background. In the southeast, 23% of the population in Slough was Muslim and 11% Sikh. Cardiff, the home of the largest population of minority ethic people in Wales, had a 15% minority ethnic population.
Skills For Smart Directors
Every board that I have been a member of has a need to smart directors. Businesses of all sectors need educated, highly motivated people regardless of their diversity. Diversity can provide a much-needed insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in this fast-moving and ever-changing environment. Diversity at board level can help an organisation cast out inaccurate assumptions and help them to analyse ambiguous data. Diversity enables a board to examine different and divergent point of views and to view an opportunity through a number of different lenses.
Organisations need to be open to disruptive change driven internally or from its competitors, remain receptive to opportunities that may run counter to previous assumptions or adopt a ‘launch quick, fail fast’ resilience in the face of rapid change and transformational scenarios.
The rest of this editorial will be published at a later time. Peaches Golding is currently Lord Lieutenant of the city and county of Bristol