The Cranfield report should give chief executives, chairmen and executive search firms pause for thought. Not only because the drive to increase the proportion of women representing the top echelons of business is so painfully slow, but because we need to take a step back and view the diversity of Britain’s boardrooms through a much wider lens.
The definition of ‘diversity’ must go beyond gender - and beyond ethnicity (something which is much less frequently and vociferously discussed) - to encompass inter-generational cohesion, international experience and working culture.
Our boardrooms should not all look the same, as if cloned from the DNA of those who went before, or be so similar of viewpoint and experience that they are at risk of groupthink.
If boards are to govern risk and avoid reputational disasters effectively, they need to be curious, ask the difficult questions and challenge information that is being presented to them.
Diversity of outlook and skill-sets is one of the crucial elements of ensuring that this happens — we must recruit a group of individuals who benefit from a broad range of experience and mind-sets, to ensure key business decisions are approached rigorously, from different points of view.
Every director should make a commitment to fostering a broad pool of talent as part of his or her KPIs. Organisations need to devise appropriate metrics for measurement — systems to interpret data and create a plan for improving diversity within the business.
Recruitment processes need to be much more transparent and positive steps towards strengthening and developing diverse talent should be taken — such as networking and mentoring programmes and cross-functional and flexible working. And finally, chairmen and executive search firms should be challenged to cast the net wider and not continue to recruit in the same model.
By Gillian Lees, head of corporate governance and risk at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)