Despite modest gains, women and minorities see little change in representation on Fortune 500 boards
Shifting demographics in the United States have brought diversity to the forefront of issues on the minds of C-suite executives and corporate boards. As the population of the United States continues to diversify, companies may need to determine ways to gain more diversity of thought, experience, and background in both management as well as the boardroom.
This study is the outgrowth of a multi-year effort organized by the Alliance for Board Diversity, collaborating with Deloitte for the 2016 census, which has examined and chronicled the degree of participation of diverse professionals on boards of directors across America’s largest companies.
Originally organized as a “snapshot” of board diversity, the data, since accumulated over time, has allowed for the development of information on trends relative to overall diversity as well as the comparative differences in rates of representation among minorities and women over a period of more than a decade. This 2016 report highlights the progress to date that has been made for women and minorities on corporate boards. While there have been some gains, they have been negligible at best, and certainly not representative of the broad demographic changes we have seen in the United States in the same period of time. Reviewing the data provides insight into board diversity changes from 2012–2016 across the Fortune 500. A few specific summary items to note:
- Some progress has been made for African Americans/Blacks in securing/holding Fortune 500 board seats. The bulk of the African American male increases occurred within the Fortune 100. There has been an increase in the Fortune 500 of African American/Black women board members by 18.4 percent since 2012, while the total number of African American male board members in the Fortune 500 had only an increase of 1 percent.
- The percentage of Caucasian/White women currently holding Fortune 500 board seats has increased by 21.2 percent since 2012, and the number of Caucasian/White men has decreased by 6.4 percent.
- Asian/Pacific Islanders have shown continued growth. However, their starting baseline was small—thus their overall representation is still roughly three percent of all board seats, representing a total of 167 seats, with an additional increase (46.7 percent) in Asian/Pacific Islander women.
- African Americans/Blacks appear to have the highest rate of individuals serving on multiple boards—indicating that companies are going to the same individuals rather than expanding the pool of African American candidates for board membership.
- Nominal gains have been accomplished for Hispanic/Latino men, while we saw a loss of two Fortune 500 board seats for Hispanic/Latino women since 2012.
- Currently, 65 percent of Fortune 100 boards have greater than 30 percent board diversity, compared to the Fortune 500 where that percentage drops to just under 50 percent of companies.
All in all, this year’s census provides powerful metrics on the slow change of diversity in the boardroom, and may help to guide corporations and advocates toward future improvements in women and minority board participation. Read the full report for more information.