Fighting for Diversity: from the room where it happens

By now, you all have seen fearless girl statue by Kristen Visbal that State Street Global Advisors placed facing down the bull on Wall Street to bring visibility to the lack of diversity on corporate boards of directors.  The symbolism of a girl facing down the charging bull and sticking up for herself is resonating and it has already become a popular tourist attraction in New York City as girls line-up to strike a super hero pose alongside their bronze muse.

Although the statue appears to be defiantly advocating for herself, I can tell you from experience the real key to gaining diversity on boards is to have white, middle aged men take a stand and fight for diversity.  Capable women, people of color, and other minority groups require advocacy from inside “the room where it happens” (to quote my favorite political hip hop musical, Hamilton).  Seats at the table are advocated from peers within that room and within the leadership ranks that exist. 

This year, I joined the Leadership Search Committee for InfoComm International, the trade association for the commercial AV industry.  In this role, I am working with a team who is tasked with identifying talent to fill critical committee leads, board positions, and officer roles for the organization.  The committee’s conversation has focused on making sure that the nominees is capable, high integrity, engaged, and willing to serve and that we are building the leadership pipeline to preserve and growth the organization into the future.

As we work on the appointment recommendations and election slates for the coming year, we are really challenging ourselves to be strategic and find geographic, racial, gender, and company type diversity to the leadership pipeline.  In a male-dominated technology industry, diversity doesn’t happen without conscious and disciplined effort.  I am inspired by my committee peers, both men and women, who are doing the difficult work of developing industry talent and encouraging people to serve and lead. It requires determination and persistence.  It requires resourcefulness to find the qualified candidates that also represent diverse perspectives.  It, like other good things, requires struggle to achieve and is best accomplished together.

The InfoComm organization is an example of one who is very purposeful about building their leadership pipeline and thinking long-term about what is best for the organization.  Other organizations and companies who take this approach reward their stakeholders with great returns.  I applaud the work that is being done both on non-profit and commercial boards across the country and the world, the world many of you are spearheading, to add diverse perspectives to their governance: those who are daring to grow talent and advocate for opportunities for that talent to serve.  Fearless, indeed.

Originally published in LinkedIn's The Pulse