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Milwaukee Business Journal features MWi’s 2021 Research Report

See the Wisconsin company boards with the most (and least) women and women of color: Report

A growing number of Wisconsin’s public corporations have women on their boards of directors, but the state’s top public companies still have less female representation compared with the companies on the S&P 500, the report found.

Only 4.5% of board members of Wisconsin’s 50 largest public companies are women of color, compared with 10% of board members of corporations on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, according to a Monday report from the nonprofit Milwaukee Women inc.

Kohl’s Corp., WEC Energy Group Inc. and Spectrum Brands Holdings Inc. each have two women of color on their board of directors, the report found. The other companies on the list have one or zero women of color on their boards.

A growing number of Wisconsin’s public corporations have women on their boards of directors, but the state’s top public companies still have less female representation compared with the companies on the S&P 500, the report found.

This year’s report shows that 23.3% of board members of Wisconsin’s largest public companies when ranked by revenue are women — an all-time high — compared with 21.1% in 2020 and 30% of companies on the S&P 500.

“This data shows us that companies appear to be making conscious decisions about who is included on their boards of directors more than ever before,” Milwaukee Women inc chair Pat Ackerman said in a statement. Ackerman is also senior vice president of A.O. Smith Corp.

Milwaukee Women inc’s goal is to reach 25% by 2025. The organization has been publishing the annual report since 2004. In 2003, only 9.3% of board members of the state’s largest public companies were women. This is the first year the organization has tracked the representation of women of color on Wisconsin corporate boards.

This year, Kohl’s ranks the highest in terms of total female representation, with six women on its 15-person board of directors. Exact Sciences Corp. has the highest percentage of female board members (44%), with four women on its nine-person board.

Around a third (34%) of Wisconsin’s largest public companies have three or more female directors on their boards, compared with 25% last year, according to the report. Research has shown that corporate boards with at least three women have a “critical mass” needed to impact board dynamics and thought processes.

When it comes to Wisconsin’s largest private companies, there is less female representation on boards of directors (20.5%) compared with the state’s largest public companies (23.5%).

Only nine of the top Wisconsin private companies have at least three women on their boards, compared with 17 of the state’s top public firms. A third of Wisconsin’s top private firms have no women on their boards, compared with 10% of the state’s top public firms.

American Family Insurance has the most female board directors among Wisconsin’s largest private companies, with seven of its 17 board members who are women. SECURA Insurance has the highest percentage of female board members (45%) on the list — excluding two companies that achieved 50% but only have one female board member — with five of its 11 board members who are women.

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