Katelyn Fossett, associate editor of Politico, wrote about a new report from the Women’s Business Collaborative that tracks the best practices to increase women’s representation on public and private sector boards:
With many women still not returning to work after Covid-19 lockdowns and many of them still reporting high numbers of burnout, it can be difficult to find reasons to be optimistic about the state of women in business. But here’s one: A recent report from the Women Business Collaborative (WBC) and 50-50 Women on Boards found that 2021 was a “watershed year” for women on corporate boards, with the largest ever year-over-year increase in board seats held by women among companies in the Russell 3000, an index of the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in America.
According to the report, which was released earlier this month, women held 27 percent of board seats at companies on the Russell 3,000 in 2021, up from 24 percent in 2020. Another sign of progress, according to the report: Black board membership increased 32 percent.
Here are a few other takeaways from the report.
Private companies fall behind public companies on gender diversity. According to the report, 86 percent of board director seats at private companies are held by men, and 56 percent of early-stage private companies had no woman directors.
To get more women on boards, it’s helpful to have a woman CEO. The average percentage of women on boards of companies with a female CEO is 39 percent, while it is 26 percent for companies with a male CEO, according to data analyzed by 50/50 Women on Boards in the report.
Female board chairs help, too. According to a survey by the Lodis Group, which is included in the report, women board chairs have a significant impact on boards’ gender diversity. The survey found that boards with a woman chair had 42 percent women directors, compared to 24 percent on boards with a man chair. “Some of the decisions that get made about the board of directors will be more diverse … because if women [board chairs] have women networks, they can say, ‘Oh, I know a woman here,’” Gwen Young, COO of WBC, told me. And there will be benefits not only to downstream diversity, she says, but also to the company’s bottom line. “There is evidence that when you have more diversity in company leadership, profits will grow, and that’s the same for having women on the board,” she said.