Although we had discussed the diversity of the board and senior leadership team at Midland Heart many times, it was at a recent board meeting that I remember becoming suddenly aware of the composition of the board.
The membership had changed significantly given the three board members who had retired at the last AGM . As the Chairman of the Governance Committee and Equality Diversity Champion, in that moment I found myself reflecting on the activity that we were currently embarking on as an organisation in order to create a pipeline of diverse candidates for recruitment to our board.
There we were, the largest housing and care organisation in Birmingham, working in the heart of neighbourhoods, yet we ourselves like so many other organisations were not an accurate reflection of the diversity at board level that we championed in our service delivery. My reflections on that day and discussions with the CEO Ruth Cooke, were factors that motivated me to launch the Diversity in the Boardroom campaign.
In conjunction with the Birmingham Post, the campaign was preceded by a series of features about the Effective Board Member Programmes (EBM) which profiled graduates of each programme (Get On The Board for young leaders, On The Board for current and ex-professional footballers and cricketers and Lead The Board for women in positions of senior leadership). The campaign was designed to highlight the lack of diversity on boards and put systems in place to ensure that moving forward, across all sectors, we collectively recruit and develop people from all backgrounds for board appointments.
Accompanied by a full supplement in the Birmingham Post, the campaign was successful in engaging a number of organisations including The Institute of Directors (West Midlands Region), Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, KPMG (Birmingham), The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and several large housing associations, including Midland Heart and Trident Reach who all took the ‘Diversity in the Boardroom’ pledge.
Recently, B usiness Secretary Vince Cable has launched a National Plan to improve boardroom diversity. While acknowledging that since the Lord Davies report – Women on Boards was published in 2011 there has been progress with the appointment of women onto FTSE boards, there is still an identifiable gap in the number of ethnic minorities represented at this level.
According to the Race for Opportunity campaign launched by Business in the Community, “Currently in the FTSE 100 there are only 62 directorships held by individuals coming from non-European backgrounds of which only 8 are British Nationals. The overall proportion of ethnic minority male and female directors in the FTSE 100 is 5.7per cent.”
The Business in the Community report proposes that where gender has already been highlighted as an issue, consideration be given in the UK Corporate Governance Code to encourage further good practice in the area of board appointments.
I believe the Diversity in the Boardroom campaign presents an opportunity for organisations across all sectors to examine their recruitment practices and ensure that they are making the most of the skills and talent available to them.
While an element of the campaign is to improve the pipeline of recruitment, I am a strong advocate of the need to appoint competent board members. I launched EBM to help combat the issue of board diversity long before I launched the DIB Campaign with the aim of educating and graduating competent board members who could fill the diversity gap on boards. The EBM programmes also help with encouraging boards to consider succession. New board members today are the chairs of tomorrow.
Subsequent to the launch of the campaign, a Strategic Working Group (SWG) has been established which will work to secure the future of the Diversity in the Boardroom campaign. The SWG will support research into the current state of board diversity in the region, report what improvements are made as a result of the campaign, share best practice case studies and organise public events.
The Birmingham Post has been instrumental in driving this campaign forward and sincere thanks goes to Editor Stacey Barnfield and his team for working with me to put Diversity in the Boardroom on the agenda.
In my next blog, I’ll be talking more about board diversity and what you can do to ensure your board is one that is representative of the community that it serves. For more information about the Diversity in the Boardroom campaign or the Effective Board Member programmes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Let’s champion board diversity together!
* Karl George MBE, Managing Director at the governance forum is a thought leader and nationally established consultant in governance, with over 20 years combined experience in accountancy, business and strategic development. He is passionate about community development and combines this passion with his expertise in governance by sitting on a number of local, regional and national boards.
He is the creator of the Effective Board Member Programmes (EBM), The Board Game and also one of the founders of the Association of Corporate Governance Practitioners (ACGP).