Walking The Talk. Even Diversity Advocates Must Battle Unconscious Bias

I was not entirely comfortable producing a four-minute branding video for my business, but I know I have to put myself out there. I didn’t realize how much I would learn in the process — that I would reveal my own unconscious biases, it would give me greater understanding of what CEOs go through in filling their board seats, and enable me to “walk the talk” of my business in a much more effective manner.

As an introvert, I try to live by the saying, “Do something every day that scares you.” As a small business owner, I have to promote my work or I won’t have a sustainable, successful business. So I got out of my comfort zone, hired a videographer, and started interviewing people on camera for my branding video. My goal was to showcase my work helping CEOs build diverse boards of directors. I picked three great connections for my interviews:

*Tom Kalinske, a CEO who has a long history of successes in the toy and gaming industry.

*Olga V. Mack, a young attorney who launched a company in high school and sold it to her competitor years later. Olga is now general counsel at a reputable tech startup and serves on startup advisory boards.

*Penny Herscher, a CEO with activist investor experience who is on public and private boards.

I was extremely self-conscious in the first two video shoots, like a deer in headlights. I felt very uncomfortable in the spotlight. By the third interview shoot, I felt a little more relaxed.

After completing the three interviews, my videographer, who is also a journalist, wanted one more shot of me interviewing a board candidate via Skype. In thinking of who I could ask to do that, I reflected on who I already interviewed. I was mortified when I realized I was not “walking the talk.” I had diversity in gender and geographic origin, but no people of color (POC) nor LGBTQ community members in my interviews. I had gone to my immediate network, which tended to look like me.

In making that omission, I experienced the same issue CEOs and nominating governance committee chairs find when they look for board members: unconscious bias. I then made a conscious effort to ask my immediate network for referrals to executives who are people of color, in the LGBTQ community, or intersecting members of those groups. It did not surprise me when each person I asked had multiple referrals. Eventually, I called Darnell Kemp an investor who was perfect in giving me the balance the video needed, declaring, “In my day-to-day business world, I don’t see people like me, and I don’t see women.”

I am thankful for the experience I went through. I have renewed empathy for CEOs and nominating governance committee chairs who struggle to diversify their boards.

Are you experiencing unconscious bias when you or your executive search firm recruits board members? I can help. I am your conduit to a diverse network and, thanks to my video experience, it is a growing one!

Kim Clancy is founder and CEO of search firm Hampton O’Bannon Partners, LLC (HOP, LLC). She helps CEOs who want to build or grow diverse corporate boards.

LinkedIn : http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimclancy

Email : Kim@hopllc.com