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Business columns: Diversity alone can’t prevent dumb decisions

Management gurus tell us that making corporate boards more diverse will prevent them from making bad decisions, said Michael Skapinker in the <em>Financial Times,</em> but it easn't that easy.<em></em>

Michael Skapinker
Financial Times

The way to stop corporations from making bad decisions, the management gurus tell us, is to make corporate boards more diverse, said Michael Skapinker. Gender and racial diversity, we are told, helps companies avoid falling into “groupthink.” If only it were that easy.

For one thing, diversity of gender and ethnic background doesn’t always equate to diversity of experience. “Female and ethnic minority directors often come from the same educational and class background as the white males.” And diversity can’t always overcome the “enormous pressure to agree with those sitting around the table with you.” When I served as the labor representative on a company safety committee, I dutifully complained about “botched fire drills, file cabinets toppling over,” and the like. My fellow committee members responded with “impatient shuffling and barely suppressed exasperation.”

By all means, let’s add some fresh faces to our corporate boards. But let’s be realistic about how much they can achieve within the “cozy camaraderie” of the boardroom.

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