Gender Diversity on Your Board Nominating Committee

Phil Kenkel

Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair

Oklahoma State University

A recent study confirmed the fact that relatively few women serve the boards of agricultural ooperatives.  Gender diversity is also an issue on corporate boards, but agricultural cooperative boards clearly lag investor corporations and even other cooperative sectors.  Interestingly enough, research suggests that corporations with one or more women in the board room have higher profits and higher growth rates relative to their non-diverse peers.  No one suggests a causal link.  It is likely that profitable progressive corporations were simply quicker in addressing gender diversity.  Still, some degree of diversity in the board room is a good thing.  Interacting with individuals who see the world differently forces you to examine your decision process and justify your assumptions.

One possible structural barrier to gender diversity could be your cooperatives nominating committee.  If your nominating committee is not asking women to consider running for the board it is unlikely that you will get many viable female candidates.  (As an aside, the same could be said for young producers.)  A starting point for achieving greater gender diversity in the board room is to be sure you have at least one woman on your nominating committee.  Cooperatives sometimes complain that there are too few members interesting in serving on the nominating and other committees.  There could be another 50% of our cooperative membership pool that we are failing to ask.

As the ratio of female undergraduate students at OSU has increased to over 50%, I have noticed one difference.  Women ask more questions and are more likely to challenge your statements.  That might not be a bad characteristic in the board room!