Talk:Board/Characteristics

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Does Wikimedia UK wish to encourage open LGBT people to join the board of trustees?[edit source]

I was interested to see that the Chairman of the board has chosen to drop sexual orientation as a desirable element of diversity from a future board, after I made the effort to add it to this document (diff). Does anyone else have a view on whether this is a desirable characteristic of the board that needs to be stated?

If the general view is that it is not, perhaps because we fear negative publicity of some sort, then as an openly gay man and a co-founder of Wikimedia LGBT, I will be happy to find a charity more welcoming than the one envisaged here. I note that this is not the first time this was noticeably absent from our definition of diversity, I recall having to point this out with our last Activity Plan so that it would be mentioned in public. Thanks -- (talk) 22:18, 26 February 2013 (UTC)

Hi Fae, my rationale is as follows. I am of course very keen to ensure that Wikimedia UK is welcoming to LGBT people; this is particularly natural as I am one of the two LGB Board members we currently have (at least those that I am aware of, and to be honest I don't know how most of the Board define their sexuality, and haven't asked). However, if something is detailed explicitly in this document, then we are committing ourselves to proactive action to correct it if it's missing. We don't, as shouldn't, ask prospective Board members about their sexuality, so it is difficult to monitor and take into consideration. Hence I took it out. Obviously I'd welcome more discussion on this point. What does the rest of the community think? The Land (talk) 08:14, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
As you are asking the community, I shall raise this question on the Water cooler later today. Your reply is tangential to the issue, we do not have to ask individual board members to declare their sexual orientation in private or public. We can create a supportive environment and we can ask prospective trustees about their diversity and anonymize the results so we know if our recruitment process is effective on this, or not. Your edit in deliberately removing any mention of sexual orientation makes this charity a non-supportive environment, because it basically guarantees that we would not bother mentioning LGBT issues, or attempt to be inclusive in our recruitment of trustees (such as choosing to advertise in LGBT related publications) or in our long term strategic goals or objectives for the charity. If this is not completely right and open at the board level, then it will never be right at the membership level or the project level. I firmly recommend that as you took it out without discussion, you put it back in, as a gesture of good faith in the light of UK charity best practice, whilst we canvas the community about your action, regardless of your personal views.
I take care to use the term LGBT, I consider it important to never drop trans people from policy. -- (talk) 09:51, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Hi Fae - yes, having thought about it a bit further, this is a document that sets out our aspirations for diversity, so it would be odd not to include sexual orientation in that; I've re-amended the draft. Very happy to include transgender status as well if someone wants to propose a form of words. For staff, we do indeed include equal opportunities questionnaire as part of the application process; I wonder if it's a good idea to do the same for trustees. The Land (talk) 19:44, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
When I became aware of this yesterday, I noted two things:
  1. If we are coming up with a list of diversity factors that ought to be considered of importance for Wikimedia UK trustees generally, obviously, it should include sexual orientation, just as it should many other factors (gender, race/ethnic background, age and so on).
  2. If this is supposed to be a list of things we are currently more interested in increasing, then I don't think sexual orientation is a big concern. Some Wikipedians have joked about the over rather than under-representation of sexual orientation minority users. Gender is the elephant in the room, not sexuality. And it's important to ensure that WMUK doesn't remain a middle-aged boy's club.
So, in terms of the current needs of board diversity, I'd say sexual orientation minority status is not currently on the list of things we should be so concerned with as other characteristics. But that obviously doesn't mean that in the long run we shouldn't wish to maintain diversity by wanting sexual orientation minorities.
Quite frankly, at the moment, getting anybody young or old, male or female, lesbian, gay, straight or bi, trans or cis, t-shirt and trainers or suit and tie, I'm not too bothered so long as they are competent, mission-focussed and sensible. —Tom Morris (talk) 21:23, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
I'd broadly agree with you, Tom. The biggest single problem in terms of the composition of the Board is that it doesn't contain any women. Indeed, thinking about all previous Board members since 2010 or so when my memory begins, there's only been one women among the 15 or so people who have served as directors and/or trustees. But to be clear this document is the former (the list of relevant factors) not the latter (the immediate problems we face). The Land (talk) 22:15, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

There is a big difference between equality and diversity. I would rather we concentrated on having a well-qualified board rather than a diverse one. Diversity does have benefits for a charity, so it should be a consideration, but primarily we should be recruiting the best person for the job. Diversity is best achieved by making sure we have a diverse group of candidates - as long as there is no discrimination in the selection process, a diverse group of candidates should lead to a reasonably diverse board (I'm not aware of any strong correlation between any of the characteristics mentioned and ability as a trustee that would lead to a significant bias). Actively trying to have a diverse board across a large number of dimensions, though, leads to appointing token representatives of minority groups (they may be qualified representatives, but won't necessarily be the best qualified). --Tango (talk) 20:50, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Nobody has suggested tokenism. If we have 20 applicants and the best candidates all appear to be white middle-aged heterosexual men, then there is a problem with our recruitment process; possibly because we only thought of advertizing in places with a less diverse readership. I have also had it said to me, today, that because I am on the board, it is less important to ensure we attract yet more LGBT trustees. The more I think that viewpoint through, the more unpleasant it becomes. Thanks -- (talk) 21:00, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Fae, that's not what I said, and I resent the implication that you are suggesting. I'm saying that currently if we are focussing on diversity, sexual orientation is one of the things we shouldn't worry about precisely because we have openly LGBT board members. Currently, not forever. I'm not saying that you satisfy a tokenistic requirement, I'm saying that in terms of our current diversity failures, LGBT isn't one of them—gender is. This isn't saying we shouldn't try and attract more LGBT trustees, it's saying that the limited resources that WMUK is likely to spend on efforts to increase diversity should be directed to facets of diversity we don't currently satisfy rather than things that we do. That's not to say we've reached our token number of LGBT people, it's to say that we've actually been successful in having LGBT-based diversity... but we haven't been successful in getting women.
(And, no, I've got no plan to become a board member, whether as another token queen or not. Face-smile.svg) —Tom Morris (talk) 21:34, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Replying to Tom D - I would observe that "best" is a subjective criterion, and it's very easy to come to the conclusion, even by accident, that "best" is "most like me". If that happens you end up with a process that looks meritocratic, but turns out to be discriminatory. So I do think it is helpful to describe the kind of diversity that would benefit the Board alongside the skills and experience. I would certainly ask the membership to take the need for a more diverse board seriously when they're casting their votes come June. The Land (talk) 22:15, 27 February 2013 (UTC)
Shamelessly shouting out here. Could we please have LGBTQ? And maybe something about people with different needs? Panyd (talk) 15:45, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

More thoughts[edit source]

As I've thought about how we might actually apply some of these characteristics when thinking about co-opting future Trustees, some more points have come to mind:

  • Not all of these are equal in importance. Personally I would say that for an organisation of our nature, we would generally want the bulk of our Trustees to have experience of working with volunteer communities (not necessarily all Wikimedia). As written it might suggest that if we had one Wikimedian on the Board then we could tick that box, which definitely isn't the idea.
  • It might also be worth adding strategic management, HR experience, and company secretarial experience to the useful skills. Personally I would put management experience as an important skill to be represented on the Board, while the other two might more be "nice to haves".

If you have any more thoughts please do share them - I can guarantee they will be taken into consideration by the Board when thinking about how to handle future co-options, and when we produce the next iteration of this. Thanks a lot, The Land (talk) 10:49, 25 May 2013 (UTC)

Yes, I fully agree with those thoughts. Since a large part of the role is the strategic management of quite a high-profile organization I would say that previous management experience, and proven managerial skills, should be some of the more important attributes. More widely, potential candidates should desirably be able to demonstrate qualities of vision and leadership, for example in a corporate, charitable or volunteer organization, or in some other role. Finally, I would add a need for the highest standards of probity; while one could argue that that might go without saying, explicitly stating it would show an understanding of the importance of maintaining the charity's reputation. --MichaelMaggs (talk) 07:42, 27 May 2013 (UTC)