What diversity brings to the party | Inquirer Opinion
Women who lead

What diversity brings to the party

/ 05:04 AM February 02, 2023

What diversity brings to the party

Diversity has become much of a hot topic these days, and for good reason. It is important to understand how this affects organizations and businesses. However, diversity is not just about gender. It is also about age, professional expertise and experience, ethnicity, educational background, regional provenance, or even family background. The “diversity recipe” is also about inclusivity—persons with disabilities, indigenous people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people of different faiths—so that we are able to truly represent the population, and be sensitive and considerate of the variety of options we offer to meet their needs, wants, and dreams in terms of service or product.

Why does diversity matter? For me, the gift diversity brings to any board (or any group of professionals for that matter) is that it opens up mindsets. Diversity is a balancing factor to counter or minimize unconscious bias. Unconscious bias is so dangerous because these are blind spots which we are unaware exist, and this could put our business at great risk because ignorance is and can never be an excuse. Diversity is anathema to groupthink, where people who share too many similarities in thought and background can result in a roomful of “yes men.”

Because the board’s primary role centers on governance and strategy, diversity is absolutely crucial to ensure fair and inclusive, ethical and equitable, risk-managed decision-making with positive, sustainable strategic considerations. Diversity drives innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, mainly because the wealth and breadth of perspectives pave the way for “killer insights” to surface, insights that wow because of their well-grounded truthfulness that could change the game for your business.

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The journey toward diversity brings me to a “lighter” voyage. A month ago, just before the Christmas rush, we held our first face-to-face get-together of the NextGen Organization of Women Corporate Directors (NOWCD). It was aboard a beautiful catamaran yacht of one of the members, and everyone pitched in to liven up our little sunset cruise around Manila Bay. And what a fun time we had: 20 women corporate directors from various companies, sharing their backgrounds and hobbies in a getting-to-know-you way, as they sat around a table where we all enjoyed snacks, drinks, and interesting conversations. It was amazing to discover our yacht owner, who heads one of the biggest local banks’ investments department, just actually learned to sail seven years ago, and now competes in the Rolex Cup! It was equally awesome to find amongst us a lawyer who is an equestrienne and an avid protector of a 40-hectare forest in Cebu. And this corporate lawyer, who has been painting for the last 30 years as a hobby, has held several exhibits and has sold much of her work to high-profile collectors. Amongst us were former officials, many self-starter entrepreneurs turned top gun business leaders, ex-CEOs and CFOs of local and multinational companies—all with a shared mission as NOWCD members to advocate for diversity in the corporate boards in the Philippines.

As our boat docked back after three hours of swooshing around Manila Bay last December, all the NOWCD ladies left the party upbeat and delighted about meeting kindred spirits advocating for diversity—because we discovered the many facets of each other that just make life much more eye-opening and make parties much more interesting.

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Maricelle Narciso is a convener and board trustee of NOWCD, which advocates for more women in publicly listed companies in the Philippines. She is also a board director of the Philippine Navy and cochairs its strategic communications committee. She was the PepsiCo Philippines country general manager until her early retirement in 2019.

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Women Who Lead is an initiative of PhilWEN.

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