5.1 Learn how to manage resistance

When the balance of power shifts, resistance is inevitable, and it may come from unexpected directions, including your own reactions, which may surprise you. Shifting norms can take time, and the emergence of resistance can actually be a sign that your strategies are working.

Navigate common challenges

Some people feel attacked in conversations about power, privilege, equity and inclusion.

“I didn’t choose to be born this way. I am volunteering on a not-for-profit board. It’s not like I am doing bad things with my privilege, so why do I always feel like I am being attacked?”


  • It is important to emphasize that creating a culture of inclusion is about ensuring that everyone has access. It does not involve an attack any one person or identity. When a person on the board is feeling attacked, an individual follow-up gives them an opportunity to talk about their feelings and thoughts about the process
  • Training on unconscious bias[1] can help board members reflect on how our biases impact our decision-making every day. This type of training can refocus the conversation on how we can learn to shift our unconscious bias so that we do not exclude others.

Change takes time and energy

“Haven’t we done enough of this diversity and inclusion work already? We’ve been at it for a year already! We never have time for anything else!”


  • Engaging in diversity, equity and inclusion work takes lots of time and energy It is important, however, to maintain a healthy balance in the work that you are doing with your board.
  • Set realistic goals about creating a culture of inclusion on your board. Celebrate small milestones and reflect on how far you have come. Move forward at a pace that allows time and space for your board to engage in all of the important work that they have set before them.


“We’re good. We’ve got a good organization with lots of diversity and everyone likes each other. Why do we need to work on building a culture of inclusion? We’ve arrived. We never have any issues”.


  • Not everyone sees the need to build a culture of inclusion. People who, have been included and held power and privilege, may have a particular perspective about inclusion. Conversely, people from under-represented groups may have learned not to question the status quo and to be satisfied with the way things are.
  • If the conversation on inclusion has not yet begun, and no one has identified a need, it may be helpful to invite an external consultant or facilitator for an initial dialogue, focused on what the board is already doing well. The conversation can then turn to how the board can become more inclusive and how board members can unintentionally exclude other members.

  1. An example of this type of curriculum can be found at ParadigmIQ (2016). Managing Unconscious Bias: Strategies to Manage Bias and Build More Diverse, Inclusive Organizations. Retrieved from Managing Unconscious Bias


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