All the press about International Women’s Day got me thinking about the continuing challenge of achieving all sorts of diversity in all the places that matter across our society. I want to scream every time a man says we would love more women on our Board but we cannot find any interested. Frankly that is rubbish.
I read this story in October 2012 while having flown down for a day of meetings in Wellington. It has remained a nagging story in the back of my mind since then. I previously thought I was social and worldly wise. Have a quick read but the startling comment was “Naenae College principal John Russell said that of 26 pupils in a recent year 9 class, 16 had never been to Wellington.” It is our capital city and only 20km away. Most of those kids had never been on a train.
Fast forward to 2014 and I caught a few minutes of a reality show where a young person being given a chance at a job in hospitality, was demonstrating a total absence of any understanding of the basics of polite meeting and greeting. He was keen to learn but even the essentials I learnt at age 5 were unknown to him.
As educated people we make assumptions and presumptions all the time about people’s baseline of knowledge and experience of every day matters. The evidence is increasingly showing that this is a dangerous starting point for decision making on a range of issues in society and in business.
That got me thinking of how can an all male Board of older men make good decisions when they lack diversity in their ranks and no daily insights into the reality of being poor, poorly educated and lacking in opportunities. However, in privileged environments many of these men will have wives engaged in running families, dealing with education, addressing health issues and making a difference to society getting involved with charities and seeing the inequalities in action.
Solution: Introduce Bring your Wife to the Boardroom Day. While we continue with an appalling lack of diversity in gender and social experience on Boards maybe we could encourage these hard working women to come to the Boardroom and shift the thinking. While they maintain that there are no women available to increase Board diversity (despite their intentions) most of them will have at least one at home (or in their lives) who daily demonstrates intellectual and social awareness.