In October 2020, Women Business Collaborative, under its Women in the Boardroom Initiative, entered in a partnership with Equilar to develop a monthly report that tracks progress in appointing women to the boards of public companies. Our 14 partner organizations joined forces to increase supply exposure to public companies, educate and prepare qualified women for directorship opportunities and work with legislators, regulatory agencies, proxy advisory firms and major investors, banks, PE/ VC firms, and hedge funds. And we started to see, little by little, our efforts paying off as our numbers improved. On a monthly basis, women started to fill a healthy 40+ % of the new Board openings in public companies, with almost half of these seats being offered to first time women directors. If the old saying “what gets measured, gets done” proves to be true one more time, I would say that “what gets measured and worked on by a coalition of committed and powerful women organizations, not only gets done, but gets delivered at an accelerated pace.” While the first battle is being won, after almost a year, the numbers for women of color and LGBTQ+ women are still low and progress is certainly slower than what we would like to see.
In the October 2021 report, women made up 40.05% of board appointments. Out of the 139 women appointed, 37.4% self-identified as women of color and 56.1% of were first time board appointments. For the first six months of 2021, the percentage of women appointees averaged 41.6% each month. It is worth pointing out that ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other diversity indicators have to be self-reported, which means that the actual progress may be higher than what we have been able to account for monthly. Having said that, here are a few things that each and every one of us can continue to do to move the needle in our mission to increase women representation in corporate boards:
- If you are interested in joining a board, make sure to have your name, bio, and interests represented in as many board-focused professional organizations databases as possible. More and more we are seeing corporations reaching out to organizations such as Women Corporate Directors, 50/50 Women on Boards, National Association of Corporate Directors, Equilar and Bolster — just to name a few — when they are interested in finding qualified women for their Board of Directors.
- In addition to that, seek out affiliation organizations focused on Board candidates’ development and placement, and engage with them. Organizations such as Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Ascend/ Pinnacle, just to name a few, have as their mission to place more diverse directors on boards and you should leverage their influence and reach.
- Educate and prepare yourself for a Board Director role. Credentials, continuous education, and certifications do matter. Not only will we always learn something new in each program, training, and webinar, but commitment to continuous development and education is certainly valued in the corporate governance world.
- Self-identify as a diverse candidate whenever possible. However, I am not advocating that it should be required for candidates to lead a conversation or start their bios by stating their ethnicity or sexual orientation. After all, we want to be valued by our experience, skills and competence first. But, when filling a survey or questionnaire, do check the boxes that identify diverse groups with which you affiliate .
- When sought after for an opportunity that you either don’t qualify for, are not interested in, or have a conflict of interests with, make sure not to end the conversation before giving the recruiter or inquirer at least three names of qualified diverse candidates. For one, the opportunity that is not suitable for you may be a perfect match for another candidate. For two, I certainly believe in the power or good karma and the magic of paying-it-forward.
- Finally, make sure to celebrate every success story. We want the world to know about every placement. We want to continuously honor all the companies that value diversity on their Boards and are role models in excellent governance. And we want the ones that are not quite there yet to take a page from the best practices companies and follow their leads.
We will get there one board seat at a time; I have no doubt. My heartfelt gratitude to all the organizations who share our mission and collaborate with one another to achieve our parity and diversity goals. We will continue to move faster, together. Stay tuned each month as we continue to report on these numbers and progress.