• Moving the Needle on Board Diversity

    Moving the Needle on Board Diversity

    2020 Women on Boards, a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards by 20% or greater by 2020, recently released their January 2018 Quarterly Report which revealed women now hold more than 20% of the board seats of Fortune 1000 companies that comprise the Gender Diversity Index (GDI).  2020 Women on Boards surpassed its goal, three years ahead of schedule.

    Through education and advocacy, the organization promoted a national dialog on the topic of boardroom diversity and the benefits that women bring to a company’s bottom line, and applauded those companies that achieved and surpassed the 20% goal.  While much has been accomplished, the work is not done.  According to the findings, there are still 55 GDI companies without women on their boards, and 34 companies that have never had a woman director in the seven years since tracking this data.

    One key finding is smaller companies have poorer diversity records than industry leaders, with larger companies continuing to outperform smaller companies in diversifying their boards. In GDI F100 companies, 272 women hold 24% of the board seats, an average of 2.9 women directors per board, similar to last year’s results. In GDI F500 companies, 1051 women hold 22% of the board seats, an average of 2.5 directors per board, up from 2.3 directors last year. In smaller GDI F501-1000 companies, 677 women hold 18.8% of board seats, or 1.8 women directors per board, no change in women per board.

    “At Cambridge Trust Company, our diverse board has long been viewed by our shareholders, customers, employees, and communities as a key competitive advantage,” said Linda Whitlock, Director, Cambridge Trust Company.  “Having been the board’s first Lead Director, I can attest to how the expertise and perspectives of our diverse Directors elevate board strategic discussions and decisions. ‘Group think’ certainly is not the norm!”

    Between 2016 and 2017, over half of the GDI companies changed the composition of their boards. More than 125 companies added women, accounting for 140 board seats. Over the same time period, 134 companies added men, accounting for 167 board seats. Men lost more board seats than women: 350 seats in 247 companies (men) compared with 73 seats in 68 companies (women).  Of the 100-plus companies that added women to their boards, 69 did so by increasing the size of their boards, which is an increasing trend showing that many companies are increasing the size of their boards to accommodate women directors rather than waiting for men to vacate their seats.

    “Global companies like ours benefit in so many ways from having a diverse board of directors, workforce and leadership team: in surfacing different ideas and perspectives on behalf of our clients, in recruiting the best talent, and in enriching an inclusive culture, where the brightest professionals in our industry can grow their careers and thrive,” said Mike Burke, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AECOM.

    To read the full January 2018 Quarterly Report, click here.

    After reaching this milestone three years early, it would be easy to claim victory and end the campaign with an early success.  But there’s still work to be done.   Until all companies large and small give women a seat at the table and a significant voice in the boardroom, it is critical we work together to make a profound difference.

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