How to Bring Diversity and Inclusion to the Boardroom: two NZ directors share their insights

Speaking to a room full of governance leaders, award-winning director Cassandra Crowley and director on multiple boards and former MP Steve Maharey covered a range of topic during a panel discussion with MC Ziena Jalil at the Women in Governance Awards 2022.

During the discussion, the directors spoke about women in governance, with a particular focus on inclusion, finding your allies, backing yourself and creating a pathway for other female governors.

In this transcript (below) Crowley and Maharey talk about how to bring diversity and inclusion to the boardroom. 

Ziena Jalil: So how do we ensure that women, that Maori, that Pacific and ethnic communities can contribute fully and meaningfully on boards and that they feel that they're included in?

Steve Maharey:

“I think that the first thing to do is to be prepared to change as a board.

“And there's no point in diversifying your board if all you're going to do is be the same.

“Another little story, many years ago I was working with an all-male board who had just decided to appoint their first female member of the board.

“And they said to me, ‘she's fantastic, she's just like us, this is going to be all right.’

“Now, that obviously is the kind of attitude that's completely misses the point of diversifying your organization.

“What you're asking for is different experience, different points of view, different way of operating.

“So as a chair or a member of a board, the process has to start with induction. That you actually spend time, at the time that person's coming on, to build their confidence, to say that this board will be welcoming of difference. ‘That's why you are here. We want to want to see that.’ So, feel confident about that and then when you do things in your board, you spend time talking about the way the board operates.

“One of the boards I have for the last year or so has started every meeting talking about the way people want to do governance. And they finish every meeting by saying, ‘did we get it right’, while they're building their culture.

“It's really about being aware of the issue and doing something about it and valuing the fact that you are looking for diversity.”

Cassandra Crowley:

“Building on that, there are some dangerous things that we can get used to doing.

“One is when someone starts talking about someone being 'too something' - she's too this or too that and understanding that differences are valued.

“You bring all of who you are and that while you work as a team in governance, and it is about coming together collectively to make a decision that's better than any one of you.

“We need to have a space where we challenge it.

“To Steve's point, you don't hire for diversity and then ask it just to become a, a carbon copy of what's already there.”

Read more of the discussion in the following parts