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Women’s representation on boards sees best-ever growth in ‘watershed’ year

Women held 27% of all board seats in 2021, reflecting the largest ever year-over-year increase in what leadership groups Women Business Collaborative and 50/50 Women on Boards called a “watershed” achievement.

The percentage of women board members among Russell 3000 companies was up 3% from 24% in 2020, an increase that beat the previous average annual increase of 2.14%, according to the two advocacy groups’ collaborative “Women Leading Boards” report. It also reflects an uptick of 10.7% over the last five years.

More than 42% of all public board appointments for the year 2021 were women, the report found. As of February 2022, 114 women were appointed to public company boards, with 58% of those women being appointed to a board for the first time.

Currently, about 6% of women on boards are women of color. The share of newly appointed directors who come from nontraditional backgrounds has increased, from 13% in 2019 to 18.9%.

At the current rate of change, women will hold half of corporate board seats in about eight years, the groups said. To cut the timeline in half, the percentage of increase would need to reach 5.8% year-over-year.

“This new report shows that while gender diversity is increasing in U.S. boardrooms, bold change still needs to occur,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of WBC. “Additionally, with more women exiting the workforce due to the effect of the pandemic, organizations need to ensure a robust pipeline of qualified women board candidates.”

The report contains collective data from 23 organizations focused on advancing women and diversity on boards, tracking appointees across the Fortune 500, S&P 500, Russell 3000 and private companies.

Read the full report here.

50/50 Women on Boards is a nonprofit education and advocacy campaign driving the movement toward gender balance and diversity on corporate boards. The Women Business Collaborative is an alliance of more than 65 women’s business organizations and business leaders working to achieve equal position, pay, and power for women in business.

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