New report finds that the more diverse a board, the better it works

TORONTO, June 6, 2012 /CNW/ - The report, Leadership Diversity in the Nonprofit Sector: Baby Steps, Big Strides, and Bold Stances, released today, finds that even in small amounts, leadership diversity contributes meaningfully to the performance of nonprofit boards.

Based on three surveys of more than 420 organizations, the report finds that a diverse board contributes to overall board effectiveness by, for example, safeguarding and fulfilling the mission of the organization and enhancing fiduciary oversight. Board diversity also improves stakeholder relationships, increases the organization's responsiveness to the community and their clients, and brings fresh perspectives to decision-making. The more diverse a board, the more likely it is to report these benefits.

"There's definitely strength in numbers," says report author Chris Fredette, assistant professor at Carleton University. "Once a critical mass of 30% leadership diversity is reached, we see an increase in the benefits of diversity experienced by the organization. What's more, we found no downside. Diversity does not lead to more conflict or distrust between board members as some have suggested it might."

Despite the overwhelming advantages of leadership diversity, the research found that visible minorities continue to be underrepresented in nonprofit boards in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). While visible minorities make up 40% of the GTA's population, of the 4,254 board positions examined only 15.6% are held by visible minorities.

"Progress is slow, but there are signs of encouragement," explains Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree and co-chair of DiverseCity. "The majority of boards we surveyed had at least one visible minority board member. However, as the research indicates, one is not enough."

The report includes a number of recommendations for organizations that wish to strengthen their board, including understanding and communicating the benefits of leadership diversity and aligning diversity efforts to the organization's mission and mandate.

"For organizations with a genuine interest in making progress, diversity must become a strategic imperative," adds John Tory, chair, Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance and co-chair, DiverseCity. "Issues of diversity need to be embedded into the decisions, discussions, and activities of boards in much the same way, and with as much heft, as these same boards give to financial considerations."

Leadership Diversity in the Nonprofit Sector: Baby Steps, Big Strides, and Bold Stances is the fifth in a series called DiverseCity Counts that commissions research measuring the levels of diversity in leadership in the GTA. Download the full report at

DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project is a joint project of Maytree and the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, funded in part by the government of Ontario. With its nine initiatives, the project is changing the face of our region's leadership. It is expanding networks, strengthening private and public institutions, advancing knowledge on the role of diversity in leadership and tracking progress.

DiverseCity onBoard connects highly qualified candidates from visible minority and underrepresented immigrant communities with governance positions in agencies, boards, commissions and nonprofit organizations across the GTA. Interest in replicating this award winning initiative has been received from across Canada and around the world.

SOURCE Maytree Foundation

For further information:

Media contact:
Markus Stadelmann-Elder, Manager, Communications, Maytree, 416-944-2627 x284,

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