Embracing and cultivating diversity in the boardroom is not just about equity and inclusion, it’s about business and organizational leadership.
Julie Kratz devotes her professional life to teams, organizations, and businesses strengthen diversity. She started her business, Next Pivot Point, which offers training for business leaders to promote diversity, after witnessing lackluster efforts to promote diversity at her previous jobs.
But she says she gets the best lessons on how to properly approach the topic from her 7-year-old daughter.
“She really understands naturally the advantages of surrounding yourself with different perspectives,” Kratz said Tuesday during a recent OnBoard-sponsored webinar devoted to the topic of board diversity and leadership.. “She sees diversity as natural and she sees it as curious. I think all humans have that. We’re taught to be biased.”
“Think about who you want to do business with….At some point, we risk irrelevance if we don’t mirror the people we serve.”
The Business Case for Embracing Diversity
Kratz, a certified unconscious bias trainer, demonstrated the business case for promoting diversity and inclusion during the webinar. She cited statistics from Forbes, the Pew Research Center, McKinsey and Company, and Harvard Business Review that showed organizations that had proactively embraced diversity reported 87% better decisions made, 19% higher revenue, and 21-36% higher profitability.
She also asked attendees to consider Gen Z – the generation following Millennials, which is beginning to enter the workforce – and their attitudes toward inclusion in the workplace.
“Gen Z is non-negotiable about race,” Kratz said. “If we want the next generation of top talent, we need to be doing these things.”
Throughout the presentation, Kratz reminded attendees to consider their employees and their clients and their attitudes toward embracing diversity when carrying out their daily duties.
“Think about who you want to do business with. What is their gender/race/diversity makeup? Are we representing that at every level of our organization?” she asked. “At some point, we risk irrelevance if we don’t mirror the people we serve.”
On-Demand: Lead Like an Ally
The Human Case for Embracing Diversity
Kratz, whose book, Lead Like an Ally, was the basis of her presentation, gave tips on how people in leadership positions can become a better ally to employees who come from diverse backgrounds. She mentioned prototypical roles to emulate such as the Mentor, the Sponsor, the Advocate, the Coach, or the Challenger. She mentioned roles such as The Mentor, The Sponsor, The Advocate, The Coach, and The Challenger.
Most people can identify with one of these roles, and each has a specific contribution to make toward improving diversity in any setting. For instance, the Sponsor amplifies the voice of someone who’s not in the room when decisions are made. The Coach listens and provides space for self-discovery.
Board meeting minutes need to reflect decisions and the rationale behind each decision, and also accompany regulatory reporting. A board portal platform with the functionality for easy note-taking and recordings of meeting minutes also makes it easier to stay in compliance with corporate governance rules.
The Challenger is a key figure in promoting diverse colleagues, Kratz said. “We feel more comfortable challenging people who are like us,” she said. “So, when we have leaders of a certain demographic, oftentimes people are left out of those challenging conversations. This is really important to growth and development.”
Kratz, who is white, said in her own professional life, she was mentored and coached primarily by white women. When she found herself in a mentorship role, she primarily mentored and coached other white women.
“I’m not going to learn as much if I’m not diversifying my network, and that’s one of the most tangible things you can do as an ally. Diversify who you spend time with personally and professionally.”
While Kratz encouraged those in a position of privilege to speak up on behalf of others, she cautioned that not all efforts to embrace differences are helpful.
“Savior complex – performative – is not a sustainable allyship model,” she said. “We’re not here to save the day; we’re also not here to stay behind the scenes. You have to find the right balance to it, and it ebbs and flows. Show up regularly and do something with the information as you receive it.”
What You Can Do
Kratz offered several suggestions to build an inclusive workplace, but most centered around self-awareness.
She emphasized having a “why” – meaning, a specific reason that embracing diversity drives you.
“If you don’t have a strong ‘why’ around this, you’re not going to do the hard work required to stay in the conversation day in and day out,” she said. “It is very emotionally taxing.”
She also emphasized empathy over sympathy, and knowing the difference between the two.
Ultimately, Kratz challenged attendees to commit to taking specific actions, namely:
- What kind of ally do you aspire to be?
- Who will you support?
- What is one idea you will take action on?
Kratz closed by pointing out the difference between behavior and bias. “I have racial bias,” she said. “I have to really watch myself with assumptions that I make and things I might not do to be unintentionally exclusive. It starts with self-awareness. If you don’t know where your biases are, your ability to control your behavior is going to be low.”
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About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.