Your diversity discussion should not be restricted to the boardroom

There is a lot of focus on diversity in companies and not least in the boards right now. With good reason. Many analyses show that diversity in business is good. For the companies. And for the country.

But it is a shame that the focus is narrowly set on the gender aspect of the diversity challenge. And I am surprised that there seems to be a unanimous consensus that female board representation is the most important issue to fix. This is the issue that gets the most attention in the media and politically. And this is all well and good as a symbol for the diversity challenge, but this does not necessarily mean that this is where the challenges begin or where they should be solved. The problem scope is so much wider than just gender diversity in the boardroom.

Diversity throughout the management system

Furthermore, the current focus on board diversity is simply too narrow. The diversity debate should at least include the entire management system – middle managers, functional managers, the CxOs and the board. Why? Because these constitute the entire management system and consequently the quality and diversity of same, which again form the basis for the company’s success. And because we need to acknowledge that we have to build our food chains better than we have done so far. And it starts from the bottom-up but should be driven top-down.

Diversity needs a broader scope

I would also argue that the relatively unilateral focus on gender diversity is too narrow. The gender dimension should instead be just one of more perspectives on achieving better businesses. We should expand our diversity discussions in our companies. Which dimension of managing diversity is most critical for your company in order to create a better business? Is it gender, age, nationality/cultural background, education, experience, personal profile or something completely different? Your answers should be company specific and not dictated by a media or political discourse.

This is about your business

So how do you identify the areas where your company should develop management diversity? The short answer is: Reflect your environment and reflect your strategy. I have seen fashion companies targeted at young women and with a strong digital focus in which all leaders, from middle managers to board members, were middle-aged or old men. They did not fare too well in the long run! Think about how you can make the composition of your management system reflect your market, your customers, your critical technologies, your employees, your supply chain. And remember that diversity in management teams is a good thing and preferably in many dimensions.

So when you man positions, look at more than competences. Deliberately select profiles that will ensure that your management teams end up with many different representatives (women/men, young/old, local/foreign, economists/humanists, etc.)

It all begins and ends in the boardroom anyway

In short: Diversity in management is extremely important. But diversity should not just be about gender or board composition. There is no question that the board has a crucial role in ensuring that the important diversity topic is discussed and that the plans are executed throughout the business. So it actually does begin in the boardroom. And it will probably end there as well. With a composition of board members that is far broader than what we currently have.

This article was originally posted on Inside Business.

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