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Milwaukee Women inc 2021 Research Report Highlights a Decade of Impact

Percentage of Women on Boards of Wisconsin Top 50 Public Companies Reaches All-Time High; Report Includes First Research on Women of Color on Wisconsin Public Company Boards

Milwaukee Women inc (MWi), a nonprofit organization that works to achieve balanced representation of women on boards of directors to maximize the performance of Wisconsin businesses, today released its 18th annual research report, “Making an Impact.”

In this year’s report, MWi reflected on 10 years of research and the progress in gender parity since 2011. Plus, for the first time, the report shared findings highlighting the representation of women of color on the boards of Wisconsin’s top 50 public companies (WI 50). The percentage of women on the boards of the WI 50 also reached an all-time high in 2021, approaching the organization’s goal of 25 percent women directors by 2025.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Women directors:
    • Overall, women hold 23.3% of director seats on the boards of the WI 50 (up from 21.1% in 2020).
    • 34% of WI 50 companies have three or more female directors, compared to 25% in 2020.
    • 12% of companies now have four or more women board members, a 50% increase over 2020.
    • 39% of newly elected directors are women.
  • Women of color:
    • 4.5% of total board members in the WI 50 are women of color. Comparatively, 10% of directors in the S&P 500 are women of color.
    • 19.3% of total women directors are women of color.
    • 40% of the newly elected female directors are women of color.
  • Over the past 10 years, MWi found a:
    • 73% increase in the number of women holding director seats on the boards of the WI 50.
    • 240% increase in the number of WI 50 companies with three or more women directors. Research has found that women need to hold at least three board
    • seats to maximize the benefits of diversity within the board (the Power of 3).
    • 127% increase in the number of women executives in the WI 50

“Since 2011, public companies in Wisconsin have made sustained and impactful moves towards gender parity on their boards of directors. In the past year alone, 15 women joined Wisconsin public company boards, moving the state ever closer to Milwaukee Women inc’s goal of 25% gender parity by 2025,” said Pat Ackerman, senior vice president of A.O. Smith Corporation and chair of Milwaukee Women inc. “Even more meaningful is the significant addition of women of color on boards of directors – 40% of newly elected female directors are women of color. 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.”

Other key findings in this year’s report include:

  • WI Top 50 Private Companies Women Directors
    • Women make up a larger share of the Boards of Directors in public companies compared to private companies – 23.3% for public companies versus 20.5% for private companies.
    • Public companies have more than twice the number of Power of 3 companies compared to private companies – 17 for public companies versus 9 for private companies.
    • 33% of private companies surveyed have no women board members, compared to 10% of public companies.
  • WI Top 50 Public Companies Women Executives
    • 23.4% of company executives are women, up from 21.9% in 2020
    • 46% of companies have three or more women executives, up from 21% in 2020

Of the WI 50, Kohl’s Corporation jumped to the top of the list, leading the WI 50 in the number of female directors on its board – six of its 15 board members are women (the company added four individuals in 2021, three of which were women). Exact Sciences had the highest percentage of female directors (44%, or four of its nine directors). Kohl’s Corporation, WEC Energy Group and Spectrum Brands Holdings had the highest number of directors who are women of color, with two each.

“In addition to reporting on gender parity in our state, Milwaukee Women inc also strives to connect companies, CEOs, nominating and governance committee chairs, and search firms with our networks of qualified female directors and additional resources to support an equitable search process,” added Ackerman. “There is no longer any excuse for not ensuring a director search process prioritizes equity. Not only does it establish a culture of inclusion at the top, but research shows time and time again the significance of diversity on the bottom line.”

Milwaukee Women inc has been producing research on board gender diversity of the 50 largest Wisconsin-based public companies since 2004. To read this year’s full report, visit https://milwaukeewomeninc.org/research/.

About Milwaukee Women inc (MWi)
Milwaukee Women inc is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to achieving balanced representation of women on boards of directors to maximize the performance of Wisconsin businesses. MWi is a catalyst for change through its benchmarking research, education and advocacy, providing resources and programs that can help Wisconsin companies and organizations move the needle even further. MWi is committed to working with business leaders to increase diversity and to making the Greater Milwaukee area a region of choice and an attractive environment in which to do business. More information is available on Milwaukee Women inc’s website: https://milwaukeewomeninc.org/.

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