Newsflash: Corporate Boards Still Largely White, Male
There is a disconnect in our national consciousness, here in the United States, that can only be addressed if we start looking at some assumptions we are hiding from ourselves. We patted ourselves on the back, when our current President, Barack Obama, was elected, declaring we live in a post-racial society, that the work of the civil rights movement is fulfilled. Similar headlines followed regarding the feminist movement, when Hilary Clinton became not the first, but the second female Secretary of State. “No need for feminism anymore,” came the cry. “The glass ceiling is shattered.”
And yet, a survey drawn from the SEC filings of Fortune 500 companies found that women and minorities are still extremely underrepresented in corporate boardrooms. The 'meat' of the survey was the finding that “Fortune 500 boards were less diverse than Fortune 100 boards. Men held close to 85 percent of all board seats. White men dominated the board room, holding 77.6 percent of board seats. Minority men held 6.8 percent. White women held 12.7 percent. Minority women held 3.0 percent.”
When this is compared to 2010 Census data, the issue is stark. According to data drawn from the 2010 US Census, 75.1% of Americans are White (including Hispanic White men), with 24.9% of Americans some race other than White. 51.1% of Americans are women. While minorities are significantly underrepresented in boardrooms, women are even more significantly underrepresented, especially minority women.
Ilene Lang, CEO of Catalyst, one of the five organizations that collaborated on the research, found little evidence that the discrimination was intentional. She points out that the selection process for board members often starts with an informal network of friends and acquaintances and the colleagues of friends and acquaintances. However, and this is a kicker, research performed by Catalyst and cited in the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph concludes that corporations with more diverse boards statistically produce better outcomes in terms of financial performance.
All this highlights a problem with our self congratulatory rhetoric about a post-racial society and a society free of the need for feminism. If this is the case, as many in the pundit and media classes claim, why is there such long term and intractable under representation at the top of the power structure (and lest you think that this holds true only in the business world, a quick glance at the tops of the political power structure should disabuse you of that notion).Continued on the next page