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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Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.