All of this back & forth aside, due to investor demands and legislation, the makeup of boards is gradually evolving. A new report from the California Partners Project updates earlier stats on board composition. While the report doesn’t delve in to all different aspects of diversity, it suggests that most of the gains right now are coming in the form of directors who are part of a single underrepresented group – e.g., white women – versus those whose identities intersect with multiple underrepresented communities – e.g., women of color. Here are some takeaways:
In the two years before California’s board gender diversity statute – SB 826 – was enacted, just 208 corporate board seats were newly filled by women. In the two years since, that number grew to 739. And in the first quarter of 2021, women filled 45% of public company board appointments in California, an indicator that women’s representation on boards is on the rise.
Although women now hold 26.5% of California’s public company board seats, only 6.6% of board seats are held by women of color, even though females of color comprise 32% of our state’s population. When it comes to Latinas, the disparity is truly shocking. Latinas make up more than 19% of California’s population and Latinos comprise over 37% of California’s workforce, yet Latinas hold only 1% of the seats on California’s public company boards.
Pages 20-24 of the report suggest strategies to further diversify boards – expand where you’re looking for candidates, expand your definition of “qualified,” take seriously the risks of homogeneous thinking, and prioritize different backgrounds over getting a “cultural fit.”
-Liz Dunshee, TheCorporateCounsel.net May 12, 2021