The business case for diversity is clear – diverse teams produce better solutions to complex problems.

Diversity can boost innovation and employee engagement. Businesses with greater gender and racial diversity tend to be more successful and perform very well financially.

However, progress within the business community has been slow and there is still a lack of women and minority ethnic groups in leadership positions. In order to create truly inclusive and diverse firms, businesses need to start by creating more diverse teams, from the top down.

Making Diversity and Inclusion part of your culture puts your business ahead of the curve and focusing specifically on your leadership team can help facilitate a top-down approach, so that it trickles through your entire firm. However, adding diversity to your board is not a simple task, and there are numerous ways to implement a D&I initiative at leadership level. The way in which you decide how diverse your board should be and which individuals are right for the role will vary from one business to the next.

Many businesses are now adopting an approach where existing senior leaders sponsor the next generation of managers and directors. Pairing sponsors and proteges in a way that aligns with the goals of the businesses can help to bring the next generation of successful senior people through.

While sponsors don’t have to mirror all the qualities of their mentees, it is certainly easier for an individual to be led by someone who they can relate to. This is worth bearing in mind when you are selecting your sponsors from the current leadership team.

When looking at how to create a more diverse leadership team in your firm, it is important to think about your customers. Every business relies on creating a strong relationship with its customers.

As such, the makeup of your leadership team should reflect the diversity of your customer base. For example, if your firm sells products that are mainly aimed at women, a leadership team that is made up entirely of men may have more difficulty understanding the needs of the women who buy your products or services. A more diverse board with a blend of genders can add different perspectives that can help to align the objectives of the business more closely with the goals of its customers.