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'This article on diversity is not about gender imbalance'

Claudia Vidal | July 24, 2015
ICT is a field created by innovative thinkers; technologies should be developed by a population as diverse as its users.

An extensive body of research has found that boards of directors are at their best when there is diversity of culture, thinking and perspective, and that boardroom heterogeneity is perceived and valued by directors. This is a view that the Institute of Directors in New Zealand supports and promotes.

In the same way that approximately 20 years ago ICT professionals found it challenging to gain a seat at the executive table, technology skills have only recently been contemplated as required at board level.

A board's first responsibility is to the company and to represent shareholders. Both company and shareholders suffer without the support of customers and employees. A diverse board allows for the group to better anticipate and consider the concerns and perspectives of all key stakeholders, many of whom are also 'minorities'.

This is best done through a robust dialogue of differing views, offered respectfully and listened to carefully.

The journey and the transition that needs to occur is from homogeneity to heterogeneity of board composition, from group thinking to broader thinking because:

" A wide range of perspectives is desirable in any good board;

" The trend toward diversity is essential as boards look to navigate globalisation, the rapid deployment of technology, and an increasing need for risk management among others, and not just as a reflection of the evolution of the composition of the workforce;

" Experience in dealing with risk from many angles because you don't know where risk is going to come from. Having directors from very diverse backgrounds is a great source of insight.

However, it would be misleading to conclude that women face no obstacles to reaching the boardroom. Some obstacles may be outdated stereotyping, although it appears that these attitudes are changing gradually.

In terms of the inclusion of digital experience at board level, apart from a risk-mitigation perspective (and this is not just cyber-risk), there is the ability to spot and sponsor new business opportunities.

There will be a point when diversity will cease to be a topic of discussion -- but just the way to go about achieving effective business results.


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