Redefining board responsibilities to support organizational inclusion.

The inclusion imperative for boards

Yes, boards do matter for inclusion

CORPORATE AND NONPROFIT boards of directors—spurred by a mix of persuasive research; pressure from shareholders, employees, customers and business partners; and their own intuitive sense of what’s right—have been working for years to improve diversity in their own ranks. For example, the percentage of women on Fortune 500 boards rose to 22.5 percent in 2018, up from 15.7 percent at the start of this decade. People of color on Fortune 500 boards increased from 12.8 percent in 2010 to 16.1 percent in 2018.

There’s little debate that driving diversity should continue to be an important priority for all organizational leaders; nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly evident that focusing on diversity without also focusing on inclusion is not a winning
strategy. Management teams—their efforts often led by chief diversity, inclusion, or human resources officers—have started to recognize this, and some have taken concrete action to develop and execute inclusion strategies that go beyond diversity to create inclusive cultures at their organizations.
Inclusion, however, is an issue whose importance touches leaders beyond the C-suite. So, what can boards do to further promote and solidify an inclusive culture at the organizations they oversee? A great deal, it turns out. Although boards of directors remain one step removed from the C-suite’s execution focus, they have a meaningful role to play in building an inclusive enterprise, and they can govern in ways that put C suites and organizations on a positive path.

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