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More Than Words: A Board's Commitment to DE&I

By Jeffrey Shields posted 10-20-2020 10:24 AM

  

CEO Notebook |

Beyond crafting a statement, what steps can we take to ensure the workplaces within our schools are diverse, equitable and inclusive?

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Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
NBOA President and CEO

A key aspect of our recent NBOA Board of Directors Meeting was how to put the NBOA Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement into action. The statement, approved in February 2020, marked a critical starting point for NBOA leadership, but the work is just beginning. 

I therefore read with great interest a recent Fortune article titled, “Why I’m giving up my board seat to make room for someone from an underrepresented community.” I was intrigued by the boldness of this action and how quantum leaps such as these will likely be required for us to progress in a meaningful way, in step with the current environment and student and family expectations.

The author of the piece is Tim Disney, who serves as the chair of the CalArts board of trustees and is a board member at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and is a member of the Disney family. He describes four decisive actions board leaders can take to bring more diverse representation and thought to the boardroom. These include: 

  • Separating fundraising from board governance.
  • Reviewing structures and processes that may limit equitable access and inclusivity.
  • Minimizing reliance on a small group of large donors.
  • Reducing the limits donors place on gifts, providing organizations greater flexibility and eliminating nonprofits from “contorting their operations at the expense of their beneficiaries in order to receive gifts.”
The old approaches will not help us advance our stated diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals; they must undergo an intentional paradigm shift.

I find these views compelling because they are articulated by someone who sees firsthand the inner workings of nonprofit fundraising and governance models, and who is essentially saying these models are broken. He asserts the old approaches will not help us advance our stated diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals; they must undergo an intentional paradigm shift. It bears mentioning that Disney commits to not reducing his giving at all but simply vacating his leadership role.

This article echoes the calls for bold action that members of the NBOA board shared during our recent meeting. As one board member put it, “Families are applying more pressure on schools to identify, recruit, hire and retain diverse candidates, and expressing impatience when school leaders report that there are an insufficient number of diverse candidates who enter the recruitment process.” Another board member explained, “Different constituents at our schools have different levels of understanding of our DE&I efforts.” These calls are part of a wider trend. The employer review site Glassdoor, for example, recently launched diversity and inclusion reviews by employees after observing discussions on this topic rise 63% following the murder of George Floyd.

How can we within NBOA, as an association, ensure that our community of business officers, controllers, human resource professionals, facilities managers and other business operations staff, is more diverse, equitable and just? One of the first steps toward understanding where we need to go is understanding where we are today.

One of the first steps toward understanding where we need to go is understanding where we are today.

Last week, NBOA published a new report, “Demographics of the Independent School Business Office: Key Research Findings 2020,” which is a strategic investment toward our collective goal. The report helps us better understand the demographic make-up of NBOA’s membership, not only regarding race, gender and age, but also the career paths of our profession. Members may find numerous insights that inform and shape their view of the profession and opportunities to play a role in attracting more diverse candidates to the business office.

This work may be challenging, but business officers have not backed down from doing the right thing. Our commitment to a more diverse, inclusive and equitable community of business, finance and operations professionals will certainly be no exception.

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Follow NBOA President and CEO Jeff Shields @shieldsNBOA.
From Net Assets NOW, October 20, 2020. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.
#DiversityandInclusion
#Governance

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