by Ray Hayes

When you think of diversity, what comes to mind? Most people will say race and rightfully so. Usually when you talk about diversity most people focus on the racial aspect of diversifying something whether it be in the workplace or college setting. That is unfortunately why diversity is misinterpreted and why there is not a lot of increase of diversity in the terms of gender, socioeconomic backgrounds and most importantly age.

Let’s take a look at an imaginary board of directors. Board A has a group of 20 individuals who are between of the ages of 60 to 70 however Board B is totally different there board has a group of 20 individuals between the ages of 30 to 70. Board A has consistently developed and implemented the same results nothing new and everyone usually has the same mindset and experience. Board B on the other hand has delivered new, and innovative ideas on a regular bases. Plus Board B has adapted to change quicker and they consist of people from a variety of different backgrounds with different professional experiences. Which Board would you want?

Now granted a 30 year old may be a little native compared to the 60 year board member but with experience comes knowledge and wisdom. The key to having young adults on a board is their ability to grow within the role over the next 20 years and by then they are just as good and even better than the older boards how have retired now. Furthermore, with the rise of young entrepreneurs creating startups day by day the need for older board members is valuable in efforts to teach that young entrepreneur the ins and outs of a particular industry and provide them with wisdom/knowledge.

John Chambers, chairman emeritus of Cisco Systems, spoke about the importance of a diversity of age within your board of directors. “If you help them scale, within two years, they’ll be as good as a 50-year-old or the 70-year-old. So it’s about [having] a board that has seasoned people who have seen the movie before, but others will say you’re about to be disrupted…and I think more diversity in age has a huge amount to do with it.”