You Want Political Diversity on Your Board
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was dragged by the media last month when he said,
“We have a board member who is an adviser to the Trump administration, Peter Thiel. And I personally believe that if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity.”
While the media contends that political ideology is not a form of diversity, they are wrong. But, the media is right for chastising Zuckerberg on offering up such a polarizing character as a symbol of diversity while zero people of color hold a management position or a seat on the board at Facebook.
Political ideology diversity is a form of diversity and it is important to have on your board of directors. I think ethnic, gender, and age diversity should be higher priorities than political ideology but there are circumstances where political ideology diversity is important to your team. I recently attended a federal budget planning session hosted by the Concord Coalition with Rep. Jared Polis at the Boulder Chamber. The Concord Coalition is a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating generationally responsible fiscal policy. Their board of directors consists of individuals on both sides of the aisle. In order to educate and advocate for better federal fiscal responsibility, you can’t have a budget that is all spending (Democrats) or a budget that is all cuts (Republicans). The political diversity of their Board creates the right type of conflict that causes diverse teams to make better informed decisions that require compromise from both sides.
What Mr. Zuckerberg got wrong in his answer was not recognizing the room he was in or the context of his statement. I always have sympathy for people who are required to give off-the-cuff responses. You have to be well prepped about your audience and confident in your knowledge of the subject matter. Zuckerberg is currently on his Building Global Community speaking tour and his comment was made while speaking at North Carolina AT&T State University, a historically black school. This was not the audience in which to give an example of political diversity, especially by citing Peter Thiel, a polarizing character who is an advisor to our current President. Our President who once took out a full page ad in the New York Times calling for the execution of innocent Black and Latino men. Zuckerberg had to rely on political diversity because Facebook currently has zero people of color who hold a management position or a seat on the board at Facebook.
When pursuing diversity on your board, you can’t rely on one type of diversity. Political ideology diversity is needed. But so is ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic status diversity. Build your board to encompass these characteristics to stay relevant and innovative.
For more information on board governance and board diversity, follow along on Twitter or Instagram. Nikki McCord is the founder of McCord Consulting Group, the only choice for organizations looking to energize, innovate, and diversify their Board of Directors.