The complexities and challenges faced by both organizations and businesses require boards to possess an array of skills as their primary resource. A diverse board of directors provides the depth of understanding, multiple perspectives and an abundance of experience needed for productive discussions which lead to well-rounded decision making.

However, many boards struggle to make the leap from “nice to have” to an obligation. Discussions on diversity in boardrooms tends to focus on social and ethnicity as well as gender. However it is crucial to broaden the discussion to include a variety of professional backgrounds and qualifications.

Achieving a diverse board requires dedication and a shift in thinking. Some trustees aren’t at ease with the task of changing their traditional processes, such as the tendency of board nominating committees to cast their search in the same places for new members. Boards can increase diversity by broadening their search possibilities to include a variety of communities, recruiting candidates who are experts in the areas of the company’s greatest demand (for example consumers may be seeking a specialist in marketing, or an international operation might require directors with expertise in geopolitics) and establishing relationships with historically underrepresented candidates prior to the time that the need arises.

The trustees who report a more equalitarian board culture state that having the right mixture of social and professional diversities ensures that there is a sense of community on the board that is inclusive of all viewpoints. They say that boards with diversity are better equipped to comprehend the challenges facing their organization as well as the issues faced by the stakeholders and customers.