Diversity Push Barely Budges Corporate Boards to 12.5%, Survey Finds

Socially conscious shareholders have pushed for changes in the boardroom in recent years but may have lacked exhaustive data on race and ethnicity. Brett Miller, head of data solutions for the responsible-investment arm of Institutional Shareholder Services, said his firm’s clients had been eager for more information on board diversity.

“With this data, you have information to find companies who can do better, and then engage with them, and measure progress,” he said.

At the end of 2015, individuals from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups filled more than 10 percent of board seats in only five of 11 industry categories. Now, they do so in nine industries. The two laggards are the energy sector, where 9 percent of board directors are Hispanic, Black, Asian-American or from another minority group, and real estate, where the total is 10 percent.

But no industry gets close to 20 percent. Technology companies, at 17 percent, have the highest share, followed by utilities, at 16.5 percent.

Women have made much bigger advances. They now make up 21 percent of directors, up from 13 percent in 2015. But, clearly, they remain far below parity with men.

One of the other big revelation from the survey is that companies are struggling to expand the recruiting pool. Individuals from underrepresented groups are more likely to sit on more than one board. The survey shows that nearly 28 percent of Black and Hispanic directors sit on at least two boards, compared with 19 percent of white directors.

Bristol Myers Squibb, for example, recently elected two new Black directors, Paula A. Price, who sits on the boards of three other public companies, and Derica W. Rice, who is on two others, including Target’s board, which he rejoined in August.

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