LeadBoston Participant + Alums bring light to The Governance Gap, a report on nonprofit board diversity


The research is clear – organizations with racial and ethnic diversity perform better than organizations lacking in that diversity. Yet boardrooms, whether corporate or non-profit, remain predominantly male and white. What steps can organizations take to close the “governance gap”?

LeadBoston 2019 participant, Molly Delano Brennan, with her colleague Miecha Ranea Forbes at Koya Leadership Partners recently released The Governance Gap, Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards of Directors. In this report, Molly and Miecha outline the current status of board diversity and identify practical strategies to increase diversity and inclusion of boards.

One key finding is the wide gulf between intention and action. Survey respondents overwhelmingly indicated that they valued diversity on boards, but the data demonstrates that this value is not translating into action and outcomes. The authors write, “boards are well aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion, and they want to become more diverse, but they lack the knowledge, skills, resources, and genuine commitment to change required to turn that awareness into action.” Delano Brennan and Ranea Forbes suggests several strategies to close the “governance gap”: starting with shared awareness and understanding, implementing intentional recruiting strategies, and creating accountability.

On March 7, 2019, Koya Leadership Partners hosted an event entitled “A Conversation Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards,” to share their research with a wider audience. Alongside Delano Brennan, a number of LeadBoston alumni spoke at the event, including Maureen Alphonse-Charles ’97, Damian Wilmot ’08, and Wendy Foster ’10. The event took the audience through a three step process:

  1. Value: The speakers asked “How do we define value” in a board, and “how might we re-imagine value to create inclusive board structures?”
  2. Pipeline: In order to address shifting values, the speakers worked through how to build strong pipelines for diverse boards, including addressing “What are the barriers to recruiting diverse boards?”
  3. Solutions: Lastly, participants were asked “What can you do to build diverse boards?” and “What are the building blocks for the future?”

Learn more about each of these steps in Koya Leadership Partner’s event follow up.

A number of LeadBoston alums, and a current participant, spoke at the event. From left to right: Maureen Alphonse-Charles (LeadBoston Class of 1997), Aixa Beauchamp, Molly Delano Brennan (Class of 2019), Paul Francisco, Wendy Foster (Class of 2010), Dani Monroe, and Damian Wilmot (Class of 2008)

Moving towards a common goal requires building a shared awareness of the problem to be addressed. When tackling systemic inequities, conversations and learning must be on-going. LeadBoston provides participants with the skills to build more inclusive organizations by equipping them with the knowledge of the issues in place, the skills needed to develop and implement a plan, and a vast network of Boston-area professionals committed to equity and inclusion. 

Thank you to Koya Leadership Partners and the LeadBoston professionals who have worked to shine light on The Governance Gap. Your knowledge of the issue and advice on how to move forward are changing the nonprofit board landscape.

About LeadBoston

LeadBoston is YW Boston’s cross-sector leadership development program that equips mid-to-senior level professionals with knowledge, skills, and networks to drive socially responsible change in their communities and organizations. Click to learn more about LeadBoston.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our three programs—Dialogues, LeadBoston, and InIt—as well as our advocacy work, we help individuals and organizations create more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

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