Belinda Howell to step down from WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee - in interests of good governance


"Don’t overlook the importance of allies." That’s the message from WOB Cultural Diversity Committee founding member, Belinda Howell, who has announced she is stepping down from the committee after just over three years in the role in the interests of good governance and to create a space for someone else to be part of the movement. 


In this interview, Belinda looks back on her time with the Cultural Diversity Committee.

What drew you to join WOB's Cultural Diversity Committee as a founding member?

I had always been drawn to learning about different cultures, particularly from the perspective of how people operate in the business environment. I had also become increasingly aware of how leadership attributes have often been profiled in the context of Euro-centred cultural norms. 

When I saw the call for expressions of interest, I immediately wanted to be part of the committee. I just didn’t know if I would be accepted, because I wasn’t from a culturally diverse background. I made the approach, expecting to be knocked back. It was a great opportunity to immerse myself in an issue of growing importance for the business world, as well as meeting some truly wonderful, talented women whom I would never have encountered otherwise.

What are some of the key achievements of your time with the CDC?

Just getting the committee established was the first achievement. There was a lot of passion for the cause which had to be shaped into a workable Terms of Reference, protocols and plans. The leadership of the various chairs – first the founding chair, Rima Capodici, then Mahjabeen Zaman and now Sara Pantaleo – has been a critical success factor in getting the CDC to where it is now.

In terms of outputs, I’m particularly pleased that we were able to create WOB’s first Counting Culture survey, looking at the diversity of cultural background of WOB members.

Creating visibility for CALD women currently on boards and showcasing those aspiring to get there has been an achievement, along with the events and external communications which have helped raise the profile of the issue. 

In its early days the CDC was established to deal with what WOB could see was fast becoming a key, though was dealing with a ‘new’ issue for WOB, somewhat outside WOB’s main original agenda. Over time, the commitment of the CDC members to undertake activities, speak publicly and generally grow the voice around cultural diversity has seen it move it from outside WOB’s mainstream to being fully embraced as part of WOB’s strategy. This was really gratifying to see.

Have the challenges facing culturally diverse women on boards and in leadership changed since you joined the CDC? 

I don’t think the challenges have changed; they are still there. However, there is now more coverage being given to the issue and it has been pleasing to see in recent times that the AICD has started to pick up cultural diversity, in a way they did not just a few years ago. 

The main challenge for the committee is to choose its focus, in the light of the resources of its membership. It’s very tempting to want to have a comprehensive strategy, but the reality is that committee members have limited time, so the question is how to utilise this for maximum effect. 

What have been some of the personal highlights for you during your time on the CDC?

Without doubt, the highlight has been meeting so many fantastic women. There is such a great diversity of talented people on the committee and every interaction has been a joy.

I would also like to comment on why I resigned. As a founding member I had been on the Committee for just over three years. In the interests of good governance, I believed it was time to move aside and create a space for someone else to be part of the movement. I certainly haven’t lost my interest in the cause!

What are your plans now?

Well, at present I have more than enough to do! My two boards are taking up more of my time, particularly since I am Chair of one, and I also do consulting and executive coaching.That said, if I see WOB doing something that interests me, then I might find it hard not to put my hand up!

What advice would you give to others considering joining a cultural diversity committee?

To WOB members considering joining I would say, as with any board or committee, passion for the cause is not enough. Have a look at the skills and experiences of those already on the committee and think of where your particular profile can add something more to the mix. But above all, make sure you can really devote the time to the work.  

To the CDC itself I would say, don’t overlook the importance of allies. I think I have been the only member of the CDC who identified as an ally rather than someone culturally diverse, and I would hope the committee will continue to see value in having one or more members in this category. Not only because of the diversity of thought and experience that this brings, but because it can be easier for the cause if those not directly impacted share the burden of advocacy. 

Find out more about WOB's Cultural Diversity Committee HERE
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