Tips for Creating a DEI Board
Michaela Brown, the general manager of VIDA Logan Circle and chairwoman of the VIDA Diversity & Inclusion Board, shares tips you can utilize to create a DEI board.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) boards add a tremendous amount of value to businesses. They serve as advisors on important DEI matters that can positively and negatively impact employees, clients and the greater community. A DEI board’s guidance can proactively insulate operators from legal mishaps or missteps; and the sheer existence of a DEI board signals that a company is committed to creating a workplace that is for all and does right by all.
So, now you know why operators would want a DEI board, but how do they form one? VIDA Fitness, which formed its first DEI board in September 2020, shines some light on one route a company can take:
- Mission: Company leaders should establish a clear mission for the future board. Who will they be? What will they do? Who will they represent?
- Selection Committee: Company leaders should assemble a selection committee comprised of members who have a clear understanding of the company’s DEI mission.
- Diversity: The board should best reflect the diversity the company strives for, including people of different races, genders, ages, positions and relations to the company.
- Autonomy: Once board members are selected, they should be given the freedom to organize and run as they see fit, so long as it is consistent with the company’s established DEI mission. That said, a board will be most successful if both the company and the board engage each other like partners with the same goals.
- Structure: Once the board is formed, it is imperative it creates a governing document that defines its composition, leadership hierarchy, service terms, meeting schedule, goals and how it intends to accomplish those goals. These bylaws should also address items like board member expectations, contingency plans for when board members resign or need to be removed, and how new members will be selected.
- Scope: The board should define a scope of work that is derived from its mission and that is executed by small-group committees. Defining and executing the work in this manner, will help the board focus its efforts and avoid member burnout.
- Committees: The board should create a committee for every overarching initiative. For example, talent management, culture and development, bylaws and parliamentary procedures, community relations, and marketing.
- Confidentiality: The board may be asked to discuss or resolve highly sensitive matters. So, having each board member sign a non-disclosure agreement will allow the company to engage the board in a more open, honest and thoughtful way without fear of exposure.
Each company has unique needs and considerations when it comes to DEI. Creating a new DEI board is hard and time-consuming, but it is equally rewarding and change-making. So, my advice to company leaders is “when the going gets tough, fall back on why you wanted a DEI board in the first place, and use that to fuel your efforts.”