#ESP2019 warm-up with Tiina Kivisaari: "SCORE for diversity in governance"

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Tiina Kivisaari has held various leadership positions in sport. Currently, she is the Director of the Sport Division at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Sport. In the past, she has been a member of several non-governmental boards, including the Finnish National Olympic Committee, the Finnish Swimming Federation and the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention. She is still an active Member of the Board at the Sosped Foundation. Mrs Kivisaari will join us at the second European Sport Platform to talk about the importance of diversity in governance. Ahead of her keynote speech in Rome, she answered some interview questions related to the topic.

Q: Why do you think that diversity in governance is important in organisations?

A: Diversity is most often talked about in terms of characteristics like gender or race. True diversity is also about variation in attitudes, values, expertise and problem-solving strategies developed through individual experience and background. The essence is not only appointing Board members or personnel who appear diverse, but who are capable of thinking and communicating diverse thoughts and opinions, varied perspectives and well-rounded decision-making. Such a dynamic is increasingly important because of the complex issues today’s sport organisations are also facing. Furthermore, nowadays we have laws and rules striving for better governance, where diversity is one important aspect. Well, by nature, we all prefer being around like-minded people. It’s more difficult for a Chair to facilitate a meeting where there’s a necessity to draw out diverse perspectives and to manage opposing opinions and conflict. Meetings are certain to take longer, making the work of the Board a little longer. Boards that can move past these challenges will be open to creating diversity in their team sooner rather than later.

  • However, diversity of people and perspectives enhances governance

Best performance is made when cultural diversity, diversity of thought and diversity of perspectives are in place. Think about decision-making! If all Board members were always on the same page, there would be no need for a Board at all. Multiple perspectives let creativity rule the day and doesn’t make room for group-think. Great ideas emerge when disrupting the status quo. This environment fosters a dynamic that generates comprehensive oversight. People with different perspectives ask different questions, which can often lead to new ideas and better, more innovative solutions.

  • Diversity reflects the field

As there is diversity in sport communities, they have higher comfort level with decision-making in organisations when their decision-making bodies represent the diversity that exists within their community. Organisations should be sensitive to serving those who live and work in the real world or on the field.

  • Diversity brings talent

Diverse organisations and groups could also give a competitive advantage by talent that include skills, knowledge and expertise. Here we can focus not only on economical or business advantages but also competition in the sport fields, tracks, arenas, etc.

Q: What actions does the Finnish EU Presidency take in the topic of diversity in governance?

The priorities for Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union are to strengthen common values and the rule of law, to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively. As you can imagine, this includes multiple issues on good governance. In the sport sector, we concentrate on fighting against corruption and safeguarding children. Both are themes which have strong links to good governance. Furthermore, the Sport Directors are to have a discussion on sustainability in early December. This includes also social sustainability, where diversity -and our all-time favourite issue, gender equality - are crucial elements.

Mrs. Kivisaari will talk more about diversity in governance at the #ESP2019 on 5 October in Rome.