Among companies in Standard & Poor’s 1500 index, the percentage of women on boards of directors has increased from 11.3 percent in 2007 to 15 percent last year, according to an analysis by corporate research firm Equilar.
Among S&P 500 companies, the percentage increased from 14.5 percent to 18.1 percent over the same time period. The S&P 500 companies that saw the largest jump are:
- Interpublic Group of Companies (nine board members) went from one female member to four, a 33.3 percent increase.
- Netflix (seven board members) went from no female members to two, a 28.6 percent increase.
- Procter & Gamble (14 board members) went from two female members to five, a 27.4 percent increase.
- Kellogg (13 board members) went from two female board members to six, a 24.6 percent increase.
- KeyCorp (16 board members) went from two female board members to five, a 23.3 percent increase.
In 2009, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission started requiring that companies disclose this type of information. The federal agency stated:
We are adopting amendments to Item 407(c) of Regulation S-K to require disclosure of whether, and if so how, a nominating committee considers diversity in identifying nominees for director. In addition, if the nominating committee (or the board) has a policy with regard to the consideration of diversity in identifying director nominees, disclosure would be required of how this policy is implemented, as well as how the nominating committee (or the board) assesses the effectiveness of its policy.
The SEC went on to explain, however, that it leaves it up to each company to define what diversity means for the business.
A few U.S. organizations are seeking to effect more of this type of change. For example, 2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to at least 20 percent by the year 2020. The organization believes that shareholders benefit from more gender-diverse boards:
We believe that diversity of thought is essential to good corporate governance and that corporate boards of directors should reflect company stakeholders: their customers, employees, and shareholders. The best boards harvest diverse experience, skills, and perspective to obtain optimal decisions. These boards create better shareholder value.
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