The push for boardroom diversity comes at a pivotal time for corporate Canada. The ability to challenge long-held assumptions, understand megatrends, and calibrate strategy, risk, and talent effectively amid heightened stakeholder expectations puts a premium on thinking differently.

What is needed around boardroom tables more than ever today is diversity of thought.

When you look at the change that's occurred in the last two years, let alone in the last 20, you can well imagine the exponential rate of change that's expected in this decade from new powerful technologies, socioeconomic and geopolitical challenges, and the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. KPMG's 20 predictions for the next 20 years sheds further light on this.

Are boardroom discussions robust and directed at helping the company forge a path into the future? Are constructive contributions encouraged? Is boardroom culture open and transparent? As a director, are you fostering the kind of blue-sky thinking which will help your company prepare for what lies just beyond the horizon?

Ensuring diverse views are well represented is without question a pressing issue facing boards. And with many boards poised to change over the next several years, it's no longer enough to focus solely on a narrow lens of diversity, such as gender or geography.

The most-likely reasons prompting boards to recruit new directors are: one, to replace retiring directors; and two, out of a "strategic necessity" to stay sharp and competitive.

Almost three in five directors (57 per cent) in a recent KPMG International survey of 700 directors in 11 countries expressed concern that their boards have blind spots and are unable to identify issues that are important to their company's future. Over half (54 per cent) in Canada are equally concerned. Further, 43 per cent in Canada described their board leadership as "somewhat effective" at drawing out the views, ideas, and concerns of all directors.

If they were to rebuild their board to meet the needs of today and for the future, 59 per cent said it would be "moderately different" and 4 per cent said it would be "completely different", indicating they would overhaul their board entirely. The sentiment is similar in Canada, at 60 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

When asked what types of diversity would be the most beneficial to their board based on their company's long-term strategy, half of respondents in Canada admitted they lacked expertise in technology or digital strategy on their board, yet only 10 per cent were actively recruiting to fill that gap. The remaining 40 percent said it was "not immediately required."

Further, survey respondents said that board members with industry experience are unquestionably essential; in Canada, 33 per cent of directors cite industry experience as the number one criterion for recruiting new board members.

In fulfilling the goal of diversity of thought around the boardroom table, what are some of the challenges?

Directors cited recruitment from narrow pipelines as impediments to recruiting diverse directors. Either the CEO or the board is inclined to recruit from a narrow social or business circle or outside search firms have narrow pipelines. A third cited a lack of qualified candidates as their greatest impediment.

Perhaps the time has come to broaden the definition of qualified beyond the traditional notion of diversity and work to further expand the pipeline of talented candidates.

Once at the boardroom table, it's then up to every director to push, prod and probe to create long-term value for the organization.

This is why boardroom composition matters.

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