Progress, what progress?

The latest census from the Alliance for Board Diversity proves what we probably knew already – that little progress has been achieved in the diversity of corporate America in the past six years. In the Fortune 100, the proportion of white male directors actually increased, adding 32 board seats from 2004 to 2010.

Ilene H. Lang, chair of ABD and president and chief executive of Catalyst, a business diversity research and campaign group, says:

“With so many qualified women and minority candidates available for board service, it is staggering to find that no real progress has been made in the past six years to advance minorities and women into the boardroom.”

The ABD, an alliance of not-for-profit diversity groups including Catalyst, has published its annual census since 2004, but for the first time it has included data from the Fortune 500 (not just the top 100 companies). Fortune 500 companies are even less diverse than those in the Fortune 100, with 94.9 per cent of board chairs held by white men and about half of boards having less than 20 per cent women and minority members. This reflects the diversity pattern of the UK’s FTSE, where half of FTSE 250 companies have all-male boards. Across all Fortune 500 company boards, the report shows, white men fill 77.6 per cent of seats, with women holding 15.7 per cent and non-white men making up the balance.

Research reports such as this serve to highlight the fact that change requires more than good intentions. For all the brave words, we have a long way to go.

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