Talking to boards about DEI does not have to be a difficult—or dreaded—conversation. It helps to start the discussion by showing the many business advantages that come along with a DEI strategy.
“When you shift that mindset, you’re not afraid to go talk to your board. You’re excited to talk to your board,” said Janet Smith, cofounder and president of Ivy Planning Group, a management consulting firm with a focus on DEI. “You’re showing you are indeed a leader; you are forecasting, you are doing what’s best for your organization.”
When Felicia K. Taylor, MBA, CAE, started as CEO of the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (NJAAP), she set out to immediately do just that. She met with the board to ask what kept them up at night and where they wanted her to focus energy. Top of the list? To be financially stable and to grow and diversify membership.
After Taylor delved into how things were structured at the organization, she realized everything was being done the same way year after year. “Hiring the first Black female CEO was a huge statement for this organization,” she said. But when she looked at the composition of the board and the staff, she knew it was time for some straight talk.
“When you bring the DEI lens to the table and show them some things they could try to do differently to grow—whether it’s drawing your unrestricted revenue, or growing your membership, or engaging your community—when it’s from a DEI lens, that’s when the lightbulb went off,” Taylor said.