Steps to Achieving Board Diversity

WittKieffer senior partner Jim Gauss, an advocate of leadership diversity for decades, was recently interviewed by Karma Bass and Erica Osborne for AHA’s Trustee Insights. In “5 Steps to Achieving Diversity on Your Board,” Bass and Osborne outline essential procedures that healthcare boards must take to improve their commitment to, and success with, diversity.

Gauss provides ample input, including on how boards can diversify their recruitment sources. “If you really are serious about new skill sets and you’re really serious about diversity, you’ve got to go to new sources,” he advises. “You cannot rely on the traditional sources of candidates.”

Gauss suggests recruiting from organizations focused specifically on developing leadership or governance capacity, such as the African American Board Leadership Institute, National Association of Latino Health Executives and the National Association of Health Services Executives. Local social service agencies, chapters of national service agencies, and colleges and universities are all appropriate sources to find diverse candidates as well.

Boards must also be prepared for the important questions that diverse candidates are likely to ask: “What’s your history? Am I the first diverse member? What is the ethnic mix of your senior team?” are just a few of the questions that boards should expect. Most importantly, Gauss says, candidates want to know that they’re being sought for what they know and who they are rather than “for diversity’s sake”.

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