Equality on boards: how LGBTQ+ inclusion elevates corporate success

As corporations recognize the need for diverse leadership, LGBTQ+ representation on boards is an integral component of successful corporate cultures.

LGBTQ+ representation becomes not just a symbol of inclusivity within the wider market but also strategic imperative that adds depth to board discussions. Yet, the path to increasing LGBTQ+ representation is not without hurdles and the board member selection process can be specifically challenging for LGBTQ+ leaders.

In this article, we delve into the crucial importance of LGBTQ+ representation, the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals aspiring to board positions, and the opportunities and strategies for positive change.

The benefits of LGBTQ+ representation on corporate boards

Diverse leadership is crucial for driving innovation in today’s competitive landscape, with companies with greater diversity outperforming less diverse companies by 19% on innovation-related revenue. Diverse boards reflect of a range of experiences and perspectives, which then drives innovation and creative problem-solving.

Diverse leaders often have navigated unique life journeys and overcome societal challenges, and they can bring a distinctive lens to boardroom discussions. As organizations grapple with complex issues and navigate a rapidly changing business and social environment, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ voices in boards can help ensure that decisions are nuanced, balanced, and considerate of broader implications.

The benefits of diverse leadership also extend beyond the boardroom and into the broader business. A diverse leadership team, with the inclusion of LGBTQ+ leaders, is better equipped to understand and respond effectively to the diverse needs of consumers as well as understand the nuances of social change and the implications these may have on the company. 

Challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in board appointments

Despite the evident benefits, challenges persist. A lack of visibility and inclusion in board selection processes remains a significant hurdle. Last year’s report by Audeliss on INvolve’s research on the experiences of LGBTQ+ talents in the workplace highlighted that 92% of LGBTQ+ respondents believed that barriers exist in their career progression. Biased decision-making processes and a lack of opportunities were cited as primary obstacles.

Additionally, the scarcity of LGBTQ+ role models in senior leadership exacerbates these challenges. With just 0.7% of Fortune 500 board seats occupied by visible LGBTQ+ directors, the lack of representation in leadership positions forms a considerable barrier. This absence limits the influence of LGBTQ+ talent in driving policy changes and initiatives that could foster progression within organizations.

Strategies for change and encouraging LGBTQ+ representation

To encourage more LGBTQ+ individuals to serve on corporate boards, companies must go beyond mere policy implementation. Actively demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity involves transparent communication and follow through on policy implementation, as well as the creation of a workplace culture that embraces diversity.

Highlighting successful LGBTQ+ leaders as role models is crucial. Establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs, such as those at INvolve, facilitates the exchange of insights and experiences. Additionally, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide LGBTQ+ professionals access to board members and executives, fostering networking opportunities.

Advice for aspiring LGBTQ+ board members

For LGBTQ+ individuals aspiring to serve on corporate boards, developing leadership, governance, and industry-specific expertise is crucial. Participating in executive education programs and leadership development opportunities enhances the skill set required for board roles.

Expanding professional networks is equally essential. Attendance at industry events, joining LGBTQ+ business groups, and connecting with experienced board members broadens horizons and opens doors to potential opportunities. Finding a sponsor with board experience provides valuable guidance and insights.

The path to a board role may involve rejection and challenges. Persistence and resilience are key. Stay committed to personal and professional development, knowing that your journey contributes to breaking down barriers for future LGBTQ+ leaders.

The future of LGBTQ+ board representation

The sentiment when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in corporate boardrooms is filled with optimism when looking into the future, however, the current negative media and political narrative on LGBTQ+ inclusion and rights could set back progress. Organizations need to push back on this sentiment to reflect a broader commitment to fostering LGBTQ+ inclusivity and representation on boards.

Crucially, ongoing LGBTQ+ advocacy efforts will play a pivotal role in this evolution. The tireless work of advocacy groups and individuals dedicated to promoting diversity will continue to drive change in boardrooms. These efforts are not just about representation but about creating environments where LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive and contribute meaningfully to organizational success.

LGBTQ+ representation on corporate boards is not just a call for equality but a recognition of the tangible benefits it brings to organizations. By addressing challenges and actively implementing strategies for change, corporations can foster environments where LGBTQ+ talent thrives, ultimately contributing to the success and innovation of the broader business landscape.