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Inclusion and Diversity on Boards: Why it Matters

Posted By Mary Le, Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Inclusion and Diversity on Boards: Why it Matters

Have you been following the recent news story of the Academy Awards boycott? In 2016, the Academy has once again failed to acknowledge wildly talented performers of color. The conversation keeps coming up over and over: Who are we leaving behind?

I often use the news as a gut-check. Just last evening, I was in a conversation with a group of individuals on a board discussing how we could make sure the organization was represented by diverse, creative individuals from every background. And then today, I sat down to pen a blog on crisis communication — reviewing the statement of Academy Awards President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. It took a turn when I tied it all together to conversations that I keep hearing. There’s a lesson in public relations crisis management here, but there’s a deeper conversation to be had as well.

Inclusion has been a hot topic in many organizations recently. A thoughtful and game-changing piece on Trickle Down Community Engagement had me walking around the office in short, energetic laps as I explored a new thought with each step. As the Director of Marketing, it’s not only my responsibility to make sure our work garners results for clients, but that our work represents and correctly targets all individuals we seek. In short: We must represent many, not one.

This morning, I asked friends who have chaired organizational boards to help me frame a discussion around inclusiveness and diversity, as my perspective was only one — and I wanted to feature their voices to offer different and powerful perspectives.


Why Does Inclusion and Diversity on Boards Matter?

“Boards have the power to influence the undercurrent of organizations' culture, which represent its authenticity, purpose and potential impact. Boards designed with diversity in mind tend to best position the organization to serve out its purpose and community with greatest intent and inclusion of ideas.” – David Wang, Founder of AMP, a platform for curating, elevating and investing.


“Boards need to reflect the populations the organization serves. It's not about diversity for diversity sake — that can start to be tokenism real fast. It's about the power of reflective leadership and having people who truly live and understand a mission being the ones in power of that mission.” – Jamie Joslin Millard, Co-Executive Director at Pollen.


“If you don't have diversity in the minds and experiences of your board, your organization will suffer from not having access to all the best that culture provides.” – D.A. Bullock, an award-winning filmmaker and Creative Director in the Twin Cities.


The best way to develop leadership is to put people in positions of leadership. Diversity on boards is a function of a community being in charge of its own mission, and of making space for new leaders, new styles of leadership and leaders unacknowledged by the dominant culture.” – Carl Atiya Swanson, Director of Movement Building at Springboard for the Arts.


“Why wouldn't having the varied perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, particularly of the people the organization purports to serve (and in many cases, does), make for an organization that is more relevant, more responsive, more attuned to the relevance and effectiveness of the org?” – Jun-Li Wang, Community Organizer at Springboard for the Arts.

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