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Webinar - Continuing to Make a Difference in all Forms of Diversity

​Watermark’s Managing Partner, David Evans, was joined by The Governance Institute of Australia’s CEO, Megan Motto, and Chairman and NED of a multitude of Boards including ASX100 listed OZ Minerals Ltd, Rebecca McGrath, on a webinar on, “Continuing to make a difference in all forms of diversity”.

David made some opening remarks about our 2022 Board Diversity Index which analyses five different types of diversity in ASX300 Boards and then we opened to a discussion with the panel. It was an interesting session with David coming from the perspective of what Search firms can do to shift the dial in Board rooms and Rebecca coming from being the Chair doing the hiring on Boards.

Rebecca first reflected on the benefits of hiring NEDs that come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. She discussed the importance of pulling together a group of people who are there for the purpose of the organisation, can make a difference and can be facilitated by a Chair that can bring out the value of all of their different experiences.

David then spoke about Watermark’s role and how Search firms can contribute to moving diversity in the right direction. He highlighted that we must respectfully challenge Chairs and Boards to look beyond the initial tight criteria of just ‘experience on a similar Board’ and really focus on what other people might add to diversity and might add to the Board’s conversation. Our role is also to introduce these great candidates to Boards.

Rebecca then came at this wearing the opposite hat as someone who hires NEDs onto Boards and what she looks for to ensure the best outcome for organisations. Her focus was that Board members need both skills and experience and it is the experience aspect that values diversity.

“Everyone’s individual experiences will bring insights combined with their skills that will be valuable to a Board”.

She emphasised that having a very broad range of both skills and experiences make the best candidates because those are the people who can bring diverse ideas to the table. David then added that NEDs can challenge Chairs and Boards to really think about what skills they need on the Board that don’t fit into their initial criteria. What is going to move the conversation forward? In David’s experience, hiring people outside the Board’s initial criteria has opened the eyes of so many NEDs on Boards who can then take that thinking to their other Boards. This is how real change can be made.

Megan then asked David whether Searches are still asking for experience (aka age) in Board members. David responded that typically Board members are older because gathering the breadth of experience needed to be a successful Board member takes time. It is David’s hope however that some seats will soon be held by younger people so these diverse views can be added to the conversation.

Megan put to Rebecca the question of how Boards can work harder to support people who haven’t been on a Board before. Offline discussions with the new NED, bringing all voices into the room and Board performance reviews not just at the end of the year were some suggestions made by Rebecca. Further, being inclusive, non-hierarchical, making people feel welcome and explaining things (a great onboarding process).

Rebecca and David then went on to discuss how we can shift the dial on diversity more broadly in society to get this conversation filtering down beyond the ASX300 and also discussed the change in educational backgrounds of Boards as a whole.

Finally, Rebecca and David gave their top piece of advice to diverse candidates:

Ask yourself:

  1. Have I achieved and made the most of my career such that now is a good time to become a NED?

  2. Why do I want to be on a Board and why would a Board want me?

Further, take and consider the advice given to you by Search firms etc.

We really hope this webinar continues the important conversation on diversity and really starts to made a difference in Boards and society as a whole.

Please see below the full recording of the webinar:

To download a copy of our 2022 Board Diversity Index for more information on ASX300 Boards, please click here.