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The Challenge of Board Diversity in Associations

Lynne Newbury - Project Manager
It seems to be a common debate and well researched topic when it comes to the challenge of board diversity not only among associations but other large corporations. 
 
I have read two interesting articles one from Association Now and the other from NonProfit Quarterly both based on Canadian and American research. The Inclusive Nonprofit Boardroom: Leveraging the Transformative Potential of Diversity from Nonprofit Quarterly is an interesting read with a focus on making sense of diversity and what they saw as the best practices for enhancing it as well as including an academic viewpoint. 
 
The academics focused on diversity and the dynamics of “exclusion”, and “inclusion”. An inclusive board can be defined as the degree in which members of diverse and traditionally marginalised communities are present on boards and meaningfully engaged in the government of their organisation. 
 

Benefits & Negatives
 
There are a range of benefits through achieving diversity within the board and this can be described as, “recognition that diversity brings richness, new ideas, growth, dynamism, energy, and lack of diversity means dullness, sameness and lack of growth”. 
 
Diversity can be based on many different dimensions such as; race, age, ethnicity, race and gender. As well as individual differences this can include; education or training and style or personality. 
 
There are many arguments in favour for increasing board diversity including; the claim that more diversity leads to improved strategic decision making and financial performance, better responsiveness to the community and client stakeholders and the enhanced ability to both attract and retain members and staff. There is also the opposite outcome which has been recognised in the correlation between increased diversity causing greater conflict and deterioration performance. 
 
Statistics 
 
The latest figure of women on The Australian Securities Exchange- ASX 200 listed that 19.4% of women where on boards as of the 31st of January 2015. This percentage has seen a significant growth since 2010. These figures are also the highest they have ever been in Australia. No doubt they will continue to grow not only in ASX listed Australian companies but also within the Association space. 

The Outcome
 
Each board will be aware of what works for them and what doesn’t, if you’re after new ideas and strategies it may be time to add a few other viewpoints into the discussion and you never know what the end result may be. You need a balance and you don’t want to go overboard with new ideas and strategies that cannot be implanted, remember to keep your organisations mission at the forefront.