Engage - Bringing diversity to the board

By Amanda Ciske, Inspire Communications Manager

This week Harvey Nash launched Engage, its latest inclusion network for senior business leaders that offers a forum for exchange amongst peers of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Founded by Peter Reichwald, Principal Consultant for Board Practice at Harvey Nash Executive Search, Engage recognises that talent comes in all sizes, colours, nationalities and cultures and seeks to move the diversity debate forward.

Engage follows the footsteps of Inspire – the global women’s network set up in 2008 by Carol Rosati, which connects over 5000 board-level women across four continents. It will support those underrepresented in business and broaden the candidate community at executive and board level to the benefit of UK businesses.

At a launch event hosted by the Financial Times Non-Executive Directors’ Club, over 100 business leaders joined to hear from Heather Rabbatts, former Chief Executive of Lambeth Council and the first woman to be appointed to the board of the Football Association. She gave a personal account of her experience as a female executive and board member of mixed-race decent in a very male-dominated industry.

She explained that although she has been fortunate to work with very diverse boards, women and those of a different colour do find that regardless of the CV behind them, there is still an added pressure to prove themselves. What she found helped her throughout her career was knowing that she brought a different lens to the table and that having a diversity of perspectives makes a more effective team.

Heather described her own role in addressing the lack of diversity in the sports industry and her efforts to build sustainable change. She said that much as she does not want to promote herself, it is impossible to escape being a role model but, that we are at a tipping point. She commented that, ‘The mark of a good leader is what you leave behind,’ and her key priority is to embed a succession plan with a long pipeline of diverse talent. It is vital that everyone recommend and promote talented people of all differences to ensure they are made visible and considered for roles.

Heather offered her tips for achieving your first Non-Executive position:

Do your research and find the common ground with the person across the table. Making a connection and engaging in conversation is essential and requires knowing more than just the company boilerplate. Equip yourself with as much knowledge about your interviewer including their interests.

Never lose your authenticity and know what sets you apart. Staying true to your values is fundamental to knowing what you bring to the table. Figure out what gives you an edge and what unique insight you can offer that will make you stand out.

A winner is a loser that tried one more time. Rejection is always painful and everyone experiences it personally. It is knowing that discrimination might happen and having somewhere like the Engage network to share this with peers.

Follow both Engage (@EngageHN) and Inspire (@inspirehn) on Twitter for the latest news and activities.

For more information please visit: www.harveynash.com/engage/