By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.
2017 September 7
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ‘Because it’s 2015!’ response to why his new cabinet was half-female was iconic and memorable, even hopeful and encouraging.
So it was deeply disappointing to read the BoardSource 2017 Report released yesterday on its particular findings on nonprofit board diversity. Yes, it’s 2017 and there’s still no diversity in nonprofit boards. After two years since its last national survey, nonprofit boards are still painfully lacking in diversity.
BoardSource is the leading organization in the U.S. focused on strengthening and supporting nonprofit board leadership. It’s been tracking and analyzing national trends in nonprofit board leadership for more than 20 years. Yesterday, it published a 64-page report, “Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices”.
The report noted that the levels of board diversity have not changed: 84% of board directors are Caucasian and 27% of boards identify as all-white. Minorities and people of colour represent at most 18% of board membership.
This is the case despite the volumes of research illustrating the positive correlation between a diverse board and an effective board. For example, CEOs report that board diversity is important for their nonprofits in:
So why is there still a lack of diversity in nonprofit boards? It’s because boards fail to expressly identify diversity as a high priority in board recruitment. Though they understand the importance of diversity, boards continue to recruit in the same way they always have - by tapping potential candidates from the same personal network of connections of existing board directors. People who look, act and think like them.
The report suggests three ways that a board can strengthen its current recruitment practices to address the lack of diversity.
After all, as poet and novelist Maya Angelou so wisely counsels: "In diversity, there is beauty and there is strength."
To read the BoardSource, Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2017) Report, click here.