Diversity & Inclusion is of increasing importance among the Executive Boards of corporations given the changes in the cultural milieu and the social impact of recent events. One challenge facing companies is that executives tend to search within their existing networks to find board members, which can limit the pool of potential candidates, particularly candidates of non-traditional and minority backgrounds.

A survey undertaken by Barry Lawson Williams, a retired director who has served on 14 corporate boards, discovered that 85% of board searches did not involve an executive search firm and only 17% of first board appointments were made through executive search firm contact. Often, the negative effects of “perpetuating long-standing racial inequality” persist as executives don’t have the kind of wide-ranging networks that they can rely upon to find diverse, high-impact candidates.

The benefits of board diversity include providing alternative points of view based off of a broader range of perspectives and experiences that can help shape board decisions. More diverse boards are also more likely to prioritize diversity within the company and to nominate more racially-diverse directors, creating a trickle-down effect on company culture that can promote the benefits of increased employee diversity at all levels of the workplace.

The questions your firm should be asking are: What professional organizations, search firms, or connections can & should be consulted to access a more diverse pool of candidates? How many candidates are typically evaluated for open board seats, and based on what criteria? Read more about Addressing the Challenge of Board Racial Diversity from the Harvard Business Review.