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The importance of equality, diversity and inclusion at board level

by Sellick Partnership | 9 February 2021

Over recent years, we have seen more discussion surrounding the need for leadership to better reflect the workforce as a whole. This push towards greater equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at board level, is already beginning to have a positive impact but there remains more to be done.

While diversity and inclusion are closely linked, they are not one and the same. Diversity refers to the characteristics of people that remain unchanged, while inclusion is the practice of making all members of a business feel welcomed and valued.

The benefits of striving for a diverse and inclusive workforce are noteworthy, research has shown that organisations with advanced EDI strategies perform better in a range of areas, including staff retention and profitability.

Bringing together experienced industry professionals, with different backgrounds and career paths, has been proven to enhance creativity and critical thinking. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that organisations with more diverse management teams reported revenues almost a fifth higher (19%) than those with below average diversity scores, due to greater innovation.

Another competitive advantage of promoting EDI initiatives is that a team from diverse backgrounds will be able to approach problems in different ways. Being able to hear from a wider range of perspective will help ensure a more considered outcome.

A strong focus on equality, diversity and inclusion can help attract better talent at every level. Organisations that prioritise diversity and promote inclusion are seen to be more ethical and socially responsible. A candidate will be more inclined to consider a business where they see themselves reflected in the leadership.

The culture of an organisation is set at the top. Without a senior and executive team that adequately represents the organisation as a whole, there can be a lack of credibility and confidence in the longevity of any EDI policies being implemented. 

Increasing inclusion and diversity at board level has traditionally been challenging. Despite a range of initiatives and government-led reviews being in place, progress remains relatively slow.

In 2020, The Parker Review found that 37% of FTSE 100 companies still did not have at least one person of colour as a director.

And while 355 women sit on boards at the FTSE 100 – making up over a third of positions –  The Hampton-Alexander Review noted there was still a lack of women in some senior and executive roles.

It is clear that whilst organisations understand the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion at board level, implementing effective EDI policies when recruiting for the most senior positions can be challenging.

Rethinking hiring strategies can be crucial when it comes to increasing diversity at a senior and executive level. As Sir John Parker, chair of The Parker Review, observed: “There are many more qualified and competent people from minority backgrounds out there in the UK and Internationally than we often believe; we just don’t meet them – and all too often our head-hunters aren’t introducing them to us.”

Ultimately, finding the right candidates for these roles requires a new way of thinking and a different approach to HR. Working with a third party can help ensure objectivity and help challenge any preconceived notions about the ‘ideal candidate’ that might be impacting the recruitment process.

If you a client looking to making a senior or executive level hire, or an experienced candidate and would like some help or advice on searching for a new role, please get in touch with us today to see how we might be able to help.