More than 45 National and Regional Sport Organisation and Regional Sport Trust Chairs and Board Members attended a recent Chairs’ Roundtable on Diversity organised by Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation (Aktive), and opened by Hon Grant Robertson, Minister for Sport and Recreation.

Co-hosted by Aktive and Simpson Grierson, the event included a panel discussion with professional director Geoff Ricketts; Aktive’s Chair and newly-appointed Co-Chair of the International Working Group on Women and Sport Raewyn Lovett; and one of the foremost commentators on diversity in New Zealand, Director of the BNZ Board, Chair of the Superdiversity Centre for Law, Policy and Business, and author of the Superdiversity Stocktake, Mai Chen.

Dr Sarah Sandley, CEO, Aktive says diversity in organisations and the impact on sport and business governance were the key focus.

“Our distinguished panellists offered significant experience and expertise in the value of diversity of thought and representation but also sounded a clear warning to sport and business to catch up with a rapidly diversifying New Zealand society,” says Dr Sandley. “We are also very grateful to the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hon Grant Robertson, who spoke on this important issue and emphasised that “we all have a role to play” when it comes to embracing diversity.”

This was echoed by Geoff Ricketts who said “embracing diversity in the workforce and on boards is simply the right thing to do and benefits the organisation” by drawing in and motivating talented employees, enhancing decision making, and improving employee satisfaction.

Mai Chen advised that boards need diverse thinking directors to get the full range of perspectives needed to effectively challenge, spot opportunities and risks and to find solutions to increasingly complex problems; but the chair and the other board directors need to be prepared to value diverse thinking and to adapt board processes to maximise the benefits for the company or organisation.

“Significantly, both the Minister and Ms Chen noted that business and sport boardrooms need to transform to reflect the changing nature of New Zealand’s population,” says Dr Sandley.

“A number of practical tips on how to boost diversity on both business and sport boards were discussed, including ensuring that appointment panels are themselves diverse. In addition, Ms Chen talked about the use of a “diverse thinking matrix” when recruiting for boards – a key recommendation from her inaugural diverse thinking capability audit of New Zealand boardrooms.”

Aktive launched the Chairs’ Roundtable in 2016 both to recognise the importance of chairs as leaders in a challenging sector, to help their development, and to connect sporting chairs.