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The Power Of Intention: Board Diversity Best Practices Realized

September 30, 2022
A promotional graphic reading, “The Power of Intention: Board Diversity Best Practices Realized, In conversation with Canadian Western Bank” atop a photograph of three individuals at a board table

Canadian Western Bank and the 30% Club recently hosted a session with the Diversity Institute focused on The Power Of Intention: Board Diversity Best Practices Realized.

The conversation featured a welcome and presentation from Wendy Cukier, who leads the Diversity Institute which is an ecosystem partner supporting implementation of the The 50 – 30 Challenge (external link) . The Challenge focuses on advancing gender parity (50%) and increased diversity in boards and/or senior leadership. DI research has underscored the importance of the Challenge in addressing the continued underrepresentation of women and non binary people, Indigenous peoples, racialized  people, persons with disabilities and those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ in Canada’s board rooms. 

“We don’t know who we don’t know”

Rahul Bhardwaj, Gay Mitchell, Dr. Marie Delorme, and Ian Reid.

The session highlighted the experience of Canadian Western Bank (CWB) which in early 200 made the decision to diversify their board representation. Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO of the Institute of Corporate Directors, moderated a fireside chat with CWB Board Directors to dive into the processes that they employed, advice for other boards and companies looking to be more inclusive, and the power of intention when adding diverse Board representation.

Gay Mitchell joined the CWB Board in 2019. While the CWB Board had nearly reached gender parity by that time, Mitchell recognized that it did not sufficiently mirror Canadian society. To realize their goal of being the best bank for business customers in Canada, the Board determined it needed to better reflect the diversity of its customers. For the first time ever, it engaged an external search firm to recruit new members.

“We looked around the table and we said, “We don’t know who we don’t know,” CWB Board Director Ian Reid explained. “We recognized that we had to look outside of our comfort and outside of our network to find people that looked like our target customers.”

Mitchell stressed that it was important to be very clear, thoughtful, and deliberate when defining the mandate for the search firm. The Board had a number of subsequent conversations with the search firm to ensure that their initial findings were representative of that mandate, part of which was to drive  greater diversity..

Dr. Marie Delorme was recruited for the CWB Board through this process. For Dr. Delorme, CWB’s use of a search firm was notable, as that is best practice when looking to cast a wider net during recruitment.

Dr. Delorme was clear that she did not want to be the “diversity candidate.” Their concerns were alleviated by a recruitment and onboarding process that they found to be comprehensive, professional, respectful, and candid. Dr. Delorme was invited to attend two board meetings throughout the recruitment process, which allowed them to get a sense of the culture and get to know the people. Their onboarding was thorough, consisting of over a dozen orientation sessions with other Board members and senior leadership.

From the start, Dr. Delorme felt welcome and included—not only invited to the party but also asked to dance.

Learn more

If you were unable to attend this discussion live, you can watch it now on demand (external link)  to hear more about Canadian Western Bank’s efforts to create a more representative board.

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