This Pride month, the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors celebrates its second anniversary. It has a particular focus on LBTQ+ women’s empowerment.

As we strive for a more competitive and performing corporate America, the representation of LBTQ+ women in the boardroom remains a critical and overlooked frontier. There is a clear demographic revolution taking place in America driven by bisexuality and non-binary identities, and yet companies are slow to catch up.

The current state of LGBTQ+ people in the boardroom is stark. Today, only 0.8 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats and 1.2% of all NASDAQ board seats are occupied by LGBTQ+ individuals, despite 7.4 percent of adult Americans identifying as LGBTQ+, according to the annual Gallup Pride Survey. 

Among these, LBTQ+ women’s representation is even lower. Notable figures such as Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’Lakes, and board members Susan Arnold, Amy Lane, and M. Michele Burns are among the few who have broken through the glass ceiling, often at a significant cost. As for trans and non-binary women, they are not present in Fortune 500 companies, while only two non-binary women have self-identified in the 3,300 or so NASDAQ Boards (including the Association’s Board Member, Heather Hiles)

Their success and that of other women outside of the Fortune500/NASDASQ groupings is a testament that, once allowed to compete, LBTQ+ women are highly valued by their peers. Indeed, they are often exceptional leaders, having had to overcome many obstacles to get there but also bringing a unique lens to board discussions.

One of the primary barriers to greater representation is the perceived lack of qualified candidates, an argument often used to justify gender inequality in the business world. However, this perception is unfounded. I like to joke that, like Mitt Romney, the Association has binders and binders of extremely qualified existing and aspiring lesbian, bisexual, and trans directors. The issue lies not in the availability of talent but in the visibility and recognition of these individuals within traditional recruitment networks. Many qualified LBTQ+ women face challenges accessing the same networking opportunities their counterparts enjoy. This disparity is compounded by the limited number of visible role models and mentors who can guide and inspire the next generation of leaders. Visibility is, in our opinion, key.

In response to these challenges, our organization and our sister organizations in Canada and Australia are making significant strides to bridge the gap. By focusing on networking, professional development, and visibility, our organizations are helping to create a pipeline of board-ready LGBTQ+ professionals. We believe in more targeted networking opportunities and the importance of role models. In March, we hosted a dinner for LBTQ+ women and allies on International Women’s Day at the Penn Club in New York, which once again showcased the importance of these initiatives.

The role of allyship cannot be overstated in this journey. Allies within corporate structures have the power to advocate for and facilitate the inclusion of LGBTQ+ women in boardroom discussions. This allyship involves actively promoting the visibility of LBTQ+ candidates, ensuring fair representation in recruitment processes, and fostering an inclusive culture that values diverse perspectives.

While our motto is to “lead with talent,” we also welcome regulatory changes. The Nasdaq Board Diversity Rule requires listed companies to disclose their board diversity statistics or explain the lack thereof, which is a step in the right direction. This rule has prompted many companies to reassess their diversity policies and practices, significantly increasing the number of LGBTQ+ inclusive board policies. We asked Chairman Gensler to consider expanding these disclosure rules to all listed companies in the country (read our December 2023 letter).

Despite these positive developments, there is still much work to be done. Companies must commit to long-term strategies prioritizing diversity at all levels, including the highest echelons of leadership. This commitment involves more than just meeting regulatory requirements; it requires a genuine belief in the value of diverse voices and the willingness to challenge the status quo.

As I prepare to speak at the Women Business Collaborative’s annual Action for Impact Summit, I am reminded of the importance of these conversations. The summit will bring together industry leaders to discuss actionable strategies for building diverse business leadership. My participation in the panel on allyship in the workplace will focus on how leaders can create positive change by fostering inclusive environments where all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel valued and heard.

In conclusion, the path to more excellent representation of LBTQ+ women in the boardroom is paved with challenges and opportunities. By leveraging the power of networks, fostering allyship, and advocating for regulatory support, we can create a corporate landscape that genuinely reflects the diversity of our society. As companies continue to navigate the complexities of today’s world, embracing the full spectrum of diversity will enhance their resilience and innovation and affirm their commitment to equality and inclusion.


  • Fabrice Houdart

    Fabrice Houdart is the Founder and Executive Director of the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors. He also co-founded Koppa Lab and teaches at Columbia and Georgetown Universities. In September, he will speak at the 2024 Women Business Collaborative’s Annual Action for Impact Summit. Register now to join me!

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