Board diversity is a topic we think about — and talk about — a great deal: Pax World has engaged with hundreds of companies on making their boards more gender diverse, and since 2010 we’ve voted against more than 1,200 board slates due to insufficient gender diversity. We do this because we know that companies with more women in leadership positions perform better, and we do this because it’s the right thing to do. We’re excited that board diversity is something more people are talking about. So, how do you get a dialogue going? Here are seven conversation starters to help you begin.
Take a look at the makeup of your own company’s board of directors. If it’s not diverse, respectfully ask your leader(s) to commit to diversifying it. Here’s how you could open the conversation: “I noticed that our board is composed mostly of men, and I can’t help thinking that we would benefit from having the perspective of more women board members, especially since half of our customers/clients are female. There’s a lot of scholarship and data showing that companies with more women in leadership positions perform better. Would you consider committing to more diversification?”
“I think our board could be more effective if we committed to making it more gender diverse. Have you thought about amending our board charter to include a diversity clause? I’d love to grab a coffee with you so we can chat more about why I think this makes sense for us and how we can get there.”
“Did you know there is a strong business case behind investing in companies with above-average numbers of women on their leadership teams? And that there are more than 35 products available to invest in just that? I’d be happy to talk with you about that as the end of the year approaches and we consider portfolio changes.”
“I’m interested in aligning my investments with companies that understand the value of gender diversity in leadership and on the board of directors. What can you tell me about gender lens investing? I understand it’s a fast-growing segment of the impact investing space. Also, does your firm vote its proxies? I want to be sure you are not simply rubberstamping all-male boards of directors.”
Do your research and find out which brands among your favorites have diverse boards. Write to the companies that don’t and let them know this is an issue you care about. You could say something like this: “Hi, I want you to know that I love your brand, but I’m disappointed that your board of directors and leadership team does not reflect your customer base. Where are the women? Please tell me how you plan to increase your gender diversity so I can remain loyal.”
Let your social friends and followers know that you have registered your support for increasing the number of women on corporate boards to 20 percent by 2020. (Then watch the “likes” fly!)
Tell the women in your network who have not sought out board positions: “You are ready. You are qualified. Raise your hand and make yourself known to recruiters and organizations that help with board placement. I am tired of hearing that companies can’t find qualified female candidates when there are more than plenty, like you, out there and ready to go.”
Kelly Coyne is a registered representative of ALPS Distributors, Inc.