Minorities appointed to boards need to be 'bold and authentic'


WATCH: DIAL Global Virtual Summit – Day 2

It’s not enough to have members of minority communities on company boards, it’s important that they feel included and are comfortable in being bold and their “authentic self” if true change is to be seen.

This is what panellists said on Thursday morning at the DIAL Virtual Global Summit, on a session titled ‘Changing Boardrooms – Attracting Diverse Talent’.

“I put my hand up to go through a rigorous process and be considered for a board role directly following the killing of George Floyd. Why? Because I felt compelled to do all I could to drive change,” said John Mccalla-leacy, technology M&A, KPMG board member.

He said he is “super proud” to be on a diverse board that is 50% female and includes 30% ethnic minorities – the most diverse of the Big 4 accounting firms.

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But he said it is not enough to be appointed to the board: “as minorities we need to be our bold, authentic selves, courageous in speaking up and not just assimilating.”

He said directly engaging with senior leaders allows issues of diversity and inclusion to “come out of the abstract into real lived experiences and that’s so important.”

Debbie Hewitt, non-executive chair, BGL group, echoed this when she said any new appointment to a company board must be made to feel included and comfortable.

“Diversity of thought should be included in a way that’s safe, not ridiculed and profoundly listened to.”

Hewitt pointed out that the biggest challenge she has seen is when leaders consider D&I “the flavour of the month” or a tick box, but don’t truly believe in it.

This is the mindset that is the hardest to change and she said it is crucial that when people are “culturally deaf, we call them out”.

Another challenge is that when it comes to senior leadership and the older generation, they have never had to deal with D&I head-on before. Many embrace this but many are fearful of failure, and that is something that needs to be addressed.

Panellists on the ‘Changing Boardrooms – Attracting Diverse Talent’ session.

Panellists on the ‘Changing Boardrooms – Attracting Diverse Talent’ session.

DIAL Global Virtual Summit, in partnership with Yahoo Finance owner-Verizon Media (VZ), is a two-day free event where senior leaders from FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 Companies discuss diversity, inclusion, and belonging and how these components are essential for successful businesses.

Speaking at the first panel of the day, Steve Ingham, CEO at recruitment firm Page Group and a wheelchair user, said while it may take time for his company’s board to be truly diverse, it has set up shadow boards in its largest markets which are “completely diverse and intersection”. He said the firm considers their opinions incredibly valuable.

He also talked about how a former executive was surprised he wanted to go back to work after an accident meant he had to be on a wheelchair, because they thought he would not be taken seriously.

“There are people who might think like that, and that’s ridiculous,” he said. He also pointed out no one who leads a FTSE 100 (^FTSE) company and very few in the FTSE 350 (^FTLC) have come out with any kind of disability. This might be because they are scared and invisible disabilities are easy to hide.

“The reality is as a starting point we can’t do any of this if we are not authentic and that should start with being honest about yourself.”