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Female representation hits two new milestones according to a new study by Spencer Stuart

Now in its 35th year, the U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index analyzes the board governance practices of the S&P 500. Some of the most notable findings are highlighted below.

Overall, representation of women on boards is increasing, including 28% of all S&P 500 directors in 2020, up from 26% last year.

  • 59% of S&P new independent directors are women or minority men.
  • All S&P 500 boards have at least one woman for the first time.

S&P 500 boards are heeding the growing calls from shareholders and other stakeholders for enhanced boardroom diversity of gender, age, race/ethnicity and professional backgrounds. The 2020 incoming class of 413 independent directors shows that change is happening on many fronts, driven by the addition of women and minority men directors.

  • 59% of the new independent directors are diverse (defined as women and minority men), tying the 2019 record.

Gender diversity is a clear boardroom priority, with women constituting 47% of the incoming class, compared to 46% last year. Of the 272 S&P 500 companies appointing new independent directors over the past year, just under half (48%) increased the number of women directors (on a net basis after independent director departures):

  • 76 companies — 28% — increased the number of women directors by expanding their boards.
  • 54 companies — 20% — increased the number of women directors.

Boards are also focused on racial/ethnic diversity. Although one-quarter (24%) of S&P 500 companies included a statement in their proxy committing to diverse slates when considering new directors, recruiting of minority directors fell slightly. Just under one of four new S&P 500 directors (22%) are minorities (defined as Black/African American, Asian and Hispanic/Latinx). This represents a slight decrease from 23% last year, but a notable increase from 12% a decade ago.

  • Minority women represent 10% of the incoming class, consistent with last year.
  • Minority men represent 12% of the new directors, a decrease from 13% last year.

While women and minority men make up more than half of the new independent directors, continued low boardroom turnover remains a persistent impediment to meaningful year-over-year change in the overall composition of S&P 500 boards. As a result, despite the record number of female directors, representation of women on S&P 500 boards increased incrementally to 28% of all directors, up from 26% in 2019, and 16% in 2010.




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