While reading the Chronicle of Philanthropy I noticed an opinion piece called, “Why Aren’t Foundation Boards More Diverse?” I think it caught my eye because I was sitting at a meeting just a couple of days ago when the question of board diversity came up. The initial conversation was the standard thoughts on what does diversity means. Is it a calculated racial mix? What about gender and age? In this discussion, there was a good gender balance but with a current age range of about 25 years – for an organization that serves eight-year-olds and eighty year olds and everyone in between — there is a seemingly obvious need for a more diverse representation and that was not even talking about ethnicity.
There were two board members’ reactions that interested me the most.
The first trigger was someone of Hispanic decent that made a comment about our need to increase our diversity as he is the only Hispanic and he doesn’t even look the part. It begs the question, does the image matter or the true diversity? Is a white South African as diverse an addition as a black South African? Does someone seem more Hispanic if their last name is Gonzalez?
The second idea that struck me was the colleague who mentioned that she had brought someone to an event recently with the idea that her friend, who was black, could help bring more diversity to the organization. Her proactive act, unusual in so many ways, created a pause in the conversation. It served as a necessary reminder that doing something to make the changes you want and not just wondering why the change hasn’t happened is the only way to move forward. Maybe her comments can offer you the same spark.