Lisa Clarke, Senior Managing Director

Thanksgiving is the time of year that many of us unite with family and friends around the dinner table. These gatherings can be diverse—in opinions, perspectives, and experiences and might just open us up to new, enriching ideas (and yes, maybe a spirited political debate with Uncle Bob). In business, we also have a table where we gather to share perspectives – the board room. In the spirit of the season, now is an excellent time to pause for a moment to consider our boardroom table and who is seated there. Are we actively inviting diversity of experience—across gender, ethnicity, culture, and skillset as a catalyst for creativity, rigorous discussion, and better decision making?

The Business Argument for Board Diversity

So often the argument for board diversity is broached solely as a moral or ethical one. In my view we need to think bigger. There is considerable data showing that diverse boards and teams lead to better results. Often this is because thoughtful composition of your board can spur curiosity and openness—and these are the keys to surfacing diverse views and creative solutions. When we recognize that our board rooms can leverage the unique talents and perspectives born from different races, religions, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds, we can see solutions and opportunities in new ways. Business is better when we actively advance others who bring new ideas—and invite them to our table.

Who Has a Seat at Your "Table"? - Diversity - Board Services - Next Level

Who has a seat at your “table”? Are you doing enough to encourage diversity?

For many, the first step to diversity in thinking is diversity in action. Not long ago I had an aha moment when someone asked me—when was the last time you advocated for or helped raise up another female executive? I was stunned to realize that my numerous examples were all 15 years old. That’s when I took action. Because NextLevel-E78 works with so many fantastic companies in different industries we had a great platform. We reached out to our center of influence partners—banks, accounting firms, law firms and others and asked them to consider their top female clients who could benefit from and bring value to a group we formed this year called “The Table”.

This group is a blend of women executives and board members representing nearly every functional discipline from CFOs to product management, HR, strategy, and e-commerce from major brands in a variety of industries. Some of these women are already in the C-suite and/or Board room, and some aspire to get there. Most are seeking to enrich their personal and professional lives by being exposed to new topics together with accomplished people with very different backgrounds and professions. Together we explore different subjects fairly deeply – these are not introductory or “101” level experiences. The members can then take this knowledge back to their own organizations and peer groups to share, raising all boats just a little bit higher. And selfishly, I realized that this enrichment opportunity I thought was for others, has provided the same to me.

How Can You Bring Diversity to Your Board?

At NextLevel-E78, as we explore more ways to open doors to diversity via “The Table”, I invite you to think about ways you might similarly contribute to advancing underrepresented thinking….and people. You may find as I did that by seeking ways to give back, you may receive even more in return. And, if you’re interested more insights on this topic, I recommend: