Corporate Boards Increasingly Fond Of White Men


A new study has found that in the past six years, corporate boards have actually increased their share of white males. But of course!

The Alliance For Board Diversity looks at Fortune 100 and 500 companies’ lucrative and influential board seats as a barometer of success in the corporate world. Per Bloomberg:

White men held 73 percent of board seats at Fortune 100 companies last year, up from 71 percent in 2004, according to the alliance, which advocates the inclusion of women and minorities on corporate boards. White women accounted for 15 percent in 2010, compared with 14 percent in 2004, while minorities made up 13 percent, down from 15 percent.

If you’re wondering if these “minorities” also have gender, the ABD says that between 2004 and 2010, “More specifically, African-American women held 2.1 percent of seats; Hispanic women held 0.9 percent; Asian Pacific Islander women held 0.5 percent; African-American men held 4.2 percent; Hispanic men held 3.1 percent; and Asian Pacific Islander men held 1.7 percent.” In that period, white men added 32 seats to corporate boards; African American men lost 42.

One more fun fact: “There was not a single Latina lead director or board chair.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that efforts to hire “identity candidates” (first time I’ve seen that one) have intensified globally, from the London financial services industry to continental Europe and stateside. The paper says headhunting firms are under pressure to “meet new demands by clients who are increasingly putting equality at the heart of their hiring policies.”

With limited supply, some say they are now having to employ ‘forensic’ research and lateral thinking to identity candidates who are suitable for senior roles. This may involve selecting women employed in noninvestment banking positions, or who are currently insufficiently senior, but who show sufficient potential to be selected and trained for more high-powered roles, the headhunters say.

It’s smart for them to focus on recruitment, because the complex set of reasons keeping women out of senior banking roles mean being proactive. But it’s either oblivious or crushingly obvious to talk about fixing the problem at the very top, or note that “the more senior the position the worse the inequality gets, headhunters and bankers say.” This gets at it a bit:

Part of the problem of finding talented women to fill senior roles lies in the sheer demands an investment bank makes on its senior staff, which can seem insurmountable for some women once the pressures of family life are taken into account.

Not all women experience the “pressures of family life” in the same way. And some of the banks in question are located in countries with far more family-friendly policies than the U.S., and these are by definition women wealthy enough to pay for childcare, even when starting out. Still, this is overwhelmingly seen as a woman’s problem, which is part of what makes their situation different from their male peers, no matter how many diversity discussions are had. And it may be why there will be no structural changes in those “sheer demands.”

Also a distinguishing factor among many of those “demands”: Sallie Krawcheck, president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America, is paraphrased by the Journal as follows: “Women probably spend an extra week of their life every year just getting ready to go to work, she calculated.”

Women And Minorities Lose Ground On Fortune 500 Corporate Boards [ABD]
U.S. Companies Fail To Increase Women Directors, Study Finds [Bloomberg]
Headhunters Seek Larger Pool Of Women Candidates [WSJ]

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