Every board is different. I have sat on early stage, a bit later stage, education and non-profit boards. All with different casts of characters that are meant to be responsible and represent the companies interests. Thinking about what your board should look like is an important reflection on what each company should be.

Darren Walker wrote a great op-ed in the NYTimes this past weekend about how museums need to step into the future and reflect equality. He has obviously been watching the eventual step down and resignation of Warren Kanders from the Whitney Board this past week. It has been fast and furious with one museum after the other walking away from the Sackler Family money and artists using their own voices to want boards, shows and programs that reflect racial and gender diversity. The time is up for anything else. This is a reflection of something that is happening at a much larger scale across everything from companies to politics.

His piece made me think about sitting on the school board of LREI where our kids went to elementary thru high school. I also sat on the executive committee. The board reflected the school. There were students, teachers, parents and alumni of different faces, religions, sexual preferences and economic backgrounds that sat on the board. Certainly liberal but we all brought something unique to the conversation. Many times we agreed to disagree as boards do and not everyone could give or even get but they worked and represented a voice which made the board a real active board. It also gave everyone at the table insight into others thought processes because nobody looked alike or came from the same place but we all ended up there. That board is what made the school tick.

When boards are all male or all female or all white or all black there isn’t any diversity. Boards should have different voices from different experiences because that is how you get the best out of everyone. It is time to see more public companies and large non-profit organizations represent the people that work there and the people they cater to.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Charity boards are often tough because the board members have to believe in, and donate to the charity. So, along with a diversity hurdle there is a money hurdle. Diversity should not be check the box; it should be based on opinion and experience. We make a gigantic mistake when it’s just check the box on skin color or gender.

  2. LE

    On Thursday, Warren Kanders resigned from the board of the Whitney Museum of Art, after protests over his company’s sale of tear gas grenades that were reportedly used on asylum seekers.Where does this all stop? What if someone calls you (or Fred) out because you sold or rented an apartment in one of your new properties to a disliked person? What if a company you invested in has a key individual who ended up having a checkered past (or current). That you didn’t know about. Or that just happened?Somewhat ironic in that the author of the article, Darren Walker, is President of the Ford Foundation. Of course this was funded by Henry Ford who was a known anti semite (among other things I just don’t have the time to dig up authoritative sources [1] ). Here is one from the Henry Ford Museum website which we can assume is accurate (on that topic):https://www.thehenryford.or…Convinced that “bankers” and “the Jews” were responsible for a whole range of things he didn’t like, from the world war to short skirts to jazz music, Ford used his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, to carry on an active anti-Semitic campaign. Between 1920 and 1922 a series of articles denounced all things Jewish. While officially apologizing for the articles in 1927, Ford’s anti-Jewish sentiments ran deep. Seen within the context of the times, they demonstrate the sharp realities and tensions that emerge in societies undergoing profound cultural, economic and political change.That was a long time ago so it doesn’t matter? Really? You know that is not how things roll. (Let’s see what happens to Regan and Nixon over the tapes revealed the other day about what they said in private to each other).How does this all work now? A small group of people (and it is small) decide they don’t like something, someone or what they are doing or have done or even might do. They protest. And the media, eager to sell advertising, gives it legs magnifies it and makes it important. Is that what all of us want in this country? Then everyone w/o a backbone runs for cover and caves.[1] We can probably assume he was like many men of that era in terms of what he thought about a host of social issues and how he acted toward women, employees and others. (But the one particular item is as close to fact as possible).

  3. LE

    Lost in much of the apparent disgust with how (some) non profits staff their board is the basic underlying principle that a large part of the reason that people are on these boards is to meet and mingle with other people who either are like them or they want to be. As such if you change the neighborhood it might very well (fundraising wise) have unintended consequences.