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Targets alone are not enough to improve board diversity, says The Clear Company

Diversity consultancy, The Clear Company, has voiced support for the Parker Review’s recommendation that all FTSE 100 company should have at least one board member from an ethnic minority by 2021, but maintains that targets alone are not enough to help improve diversity.

The firm has highlighted the need to address unconscious biases throughout the recruitment process and work on strategies to retain diverse talent. While praising the suggestion that targets should be established, the firm noted that if companies fail to implement cultural change and educate existing board members these targets are unlikely to achieve their aim.

Commenting on the recommendations, Kate Headley, director of The Clear Company, said, “The recommendations outlined in the Parker Review are a positive reflection of the growing understanding of the importance of having a diverse and inclusive board. However, targets alone are not enough to improve diversity, companies need to foster tangible cultural change. The competence to hire fairly and inclusively is even more of an issue at senior levels, where traditional headhunting networks, unwritten rules and unconscious, yet exclusive, ‘clubs’ continue to influence executive and non-executive hiring.

“Inclusion for the reasons cited in this interim report should be based on genuine commercial drivers to attract diverse talent and should aim to raise the bar for hiring in the boardroom, leaving ability to perform the role as the only selection criteria. Targets without competence and transparency can create a culture of tokenism and can shape detrimental hiring practices. Indeed, our audit team recently discovered worrying comments such as ‘if there are not sufficient women of the right calibre we will select the next best 'other’ gender candidate’.

“Conversely, where we find openness and transparency we routinely find greater quality hires being made. Creating targets without educating the existing team will not achieve the required aim and can have adverse cultural effects on a business. The key to creating successful, sustainable diverse boards is encouraging transparency and inclusivity throughout the hiring process and business as a whole.” 

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