Women on Boards

2020 Gender Diversity Index

On September 27th we released the results of the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index. We took the 2010 Fortune 1000 list and quantified companies into four categories: “W” winners are at 20% or greater women on boards; “V” companies are Very Close 11 – 19% women; “T” companies have their Token (1) woman; and “Z” companies have Zero women.

Analysis of the findings produced some interesting results. While 29% of the companies are “W” companies, the largest group is the “T” companies, with 33% having only one women. Do these companies believe they have handled diversity by appointing one woman? When you add the “T” companies and “Z” companies together over half of all companies on the list have one or zero women on their boards!

The results of our research indicate that the percentage of women on boards for the Fortune 1000 is 14.6%. This is the number we will be tracking and measuring our progress against each year.

Another significant result is that the findings reveal that the smaller the company, the fewer women in the boardroom. The Fortune 100 are at 19.4%, this number drops to 16.4% for the Fortune 500 and to 12.4% for the Fortune 501 – 1000. This debunks the theory that there are not enough qualified women, because if that were the case, why have the larger companies found them and the smaller companies cannot.

As we present the findings in various cities throughout the country, we will be breaking  the data down by state or region. When we presented the Massachusetts numbers, we demonstrated that Massachusetts is above average at 16.4%, but only 9 of the 24 companies are “W” companies at 20% or greater.

On October 4th the numbers and percentages for New York are revealed.

Investor Spring? Not just for executive pay.

In Gretchen Morgenson's article "Inciting a Revolution: The Investor Spring" (The New York Times, June 5, 2011) she tells the story of an investor who was disillusioned with shareholder returns relative to management pay packages.  The investor, a retired CEO from a major advertising agency, reasoned that if social media could be used to topple regimes in the Middle East, it could also be used to help disenfranchised investors.

The retired CEO started a website for like-minded investors who owned shares of a pharmaceutical company. The website encouraged investors to vote as a block against the company's pay practices and for all of the directors up for election. The company's annual meeting is not until June 15, but it's taking notice of this group of feisty investors.

We developed the 2020 Women on Boards website to build a groundswell of support for getting more women on public company boards.  The counter on our website indicates the number of people who support the 2020 initiative. We reached over 1,000 supporters as the campaign celebrated its 6-month anniversary on June 1st.

Numbers talk. As the number of people who support the Women on Boards campaign increases we expect that the companies will feel the heat and diversify their boards.  The most effective way for this to happen is for shareholders aligned with our mission to vote their proxies.

The 2011 proxy season is coming to a close. You can be sure that the 2020 campaign will begin to identify diversity resolutions during the 2012 proxy season. As for now, watch our list of W companies grow, and be on the lookout for the Z list coming in January.

The Wal-Mart Class Action Case

Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments for a class action case based on a 2001 suit filed on behalf of 7 women claiming discrimination in pay and employment practices at Wal-Mart. The case is the largest class action suit in history, representing 1.5 million female workers. Wal-Mart recently became a 2020 Women on Boards sponsor.  A strange bedfellow for an organization committed to gender diversity? Not really.

2020 Women on Boards is shining a consumer spotlight on the diversity performance of corporate America at the board level. Change starts with awareness and must be followed by action. 

Wal-Mart has a very clear diversity policy, spelled out on its website. It has won 37 awards and recognition for its commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion at all levels of the company.

In 1990, Hillary Clinton became Wal-Mart's first women director, after shareholders and founder Sam Walton's wife put pressure on the company to appoint a woman to its 15-member board. Today, Wal-Mart has 3 women directors, making it a 2020 “W” Company. African Americans and Latinos are also represented.  Wal-Mart has 6 women among its senior executive ranks, 17% of the company’s executive team. This year the National Association for Female Executives listed Wal-Mart among its Top 50 Companies for Executive Women.

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