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A CEO can’t find diverse board members. Don’t get frustrated, get help, says Maynard Webb

Companies with diverse boards perform better, so it is worth investing in recruiters, our advice columnist says.

A CEO can’t find diverse board members. Don’t get frustrated, get help, says Maynard Webb
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Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

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Q. I have open seats on my board, and I’m struggling to find diverse candidates to fill them. Any recommendations?

-CEO of East Coast-based startup

Dear CEO,

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Great question.

I’m glad to hear you are focused on this. The performance of your business will be better if you are more diverse as a diverse company is more representative of society as a whole. It better understands its customers, its community, and its purpose. A report from McKinsey & Company indicates that the top racially diverse tech companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns higher than the tech sector’s national median. Companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others and those that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to outperform.

My quick answer on how to increase the diversity of your board is that you should not do this alone. Get help!

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I suggest you hire a recruiter who does this for a living. I know it costs money, but you are out there looking for the same thing everyone else is looking for. I’ve worked with search firms and have had a great experience with Jeff Sanders at Heidrick & Struggles and James Citrin at SpencerStuart, both of whom have amazing reputations. These firms, like the companies that hire them, are very focused on placing diverse candidates. Jeff has told me that over the last two years, about 65% of their placements in North America have been diverse candidates.

There is also a nonprofit called Him For Her, which was founded to help accelerate diversity on corporate boards. Operating with the understanding that the problem isn’t the pipeline (there’s no shortage of talented female executives interested in board service) but the network, this organization matches “board-building CEOs” with “board-ready women.” Him For Her provides board referrals drawn from its talent network of more than 3000 women, a third of whom are women of color. The referral service is free; companies simply make a tax-free donation when they appoint a Him For Her referral to the board. I think you’ll find this is an excellent and cost-efficient option to help find outstanding candidates to strengthen your board.

I wish you luck in your search