It’s encouraging that boards are increasingly focusing on gender, ethnicity, and diversity, yet many of them are struggling to reach their full potential. Boards that make use of the recruitment of diverse directors to “check boxes” might end with a board that is demographically diverse, but lacking in cognitive diversity, which can hinder the effectiveness of the board.

When the right diversity is brought to a board the outcomes can be transformational. When women are represented in a board, their perspectives on issues like merchandising and marketing can be brought to bear on the deliberations. The result is a better understanding of the customer and their requirements, which can increase sales and profit.

The benefits of diversity extend to the company’s environment. For example, a board with members who are diverse in demographics could be more aware of issues related to sexual harassment and discrimination at work and more likely to anticipate changes in attitudes of employees regarding equal pay and other corporate practices.

If a board is planning to take its efforts in diversity to the next step it’s a good idea to think about what it might look like and how it can identify and hire candidates who have the skills, knowledge of experience, and contacts needed for that. To accomplish this, the board can conduct a self-assessment to determine its current composition. It can also utilize resources like the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s tool for diversity on the board to spark open conversations between board members and key stakeholders about what they look for in terms diversity.