Minorities Lose Ground In Big Corporate Boardrooms

The boards of directors of Fortune 500 companies still look pretty much how you’d expect: Primarily male, and primarily white.

The 2010 Alliance for Board Diversity Census, released this week, found that as of last year white men made up 72.9 percent of board members at the nation's 100 largest companies, up from 71.2 percent in 2004, when the board last analyzed the data.

When the board expanded the census to look at the nation's 500 largest companies by revenue, the results were even less diverse: white men held about 77 percent of board seats.

The remaining seats were held by white women (13 percent), minority men (7 percent) and minority women (3 percent), based on public documents provided by the Fortune 500 companies in filings.

Those involved in the study said they had expected to see the corporate boards grow more diverse, rather than less, over the six-year period.

"I frankly was really surprised," said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a professional network of African-American executives.

Donald said he suspects that one reason for the lack of progress is that regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, have left many companies eager to recruit retired financial executives to their boards, and that is likely to be a less diverse group. He also said some African-American board members may have retired and not been replaced by new minority board members.

The recession also may have played a role, in part because many companies found themselves focused on issues other than diversity, said Ilene Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst, which seeks to advance women's roles in the workplace, and the chair of the Alliance for Board Diversity. She doesn't think companies are actively seeking to exclude women and minorities, yet they may not have made a major effort to include them.

"The biggest contributor is just lack of proactive intervention," Donald said.

Among the Fortune 100 companies, women made slight boardroom gains during the six-year period studied, while African-American men lost ground. A full list of Fortune 500 companies is available here.


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  • by Educated Black Male Location: Greenville on May 4, 2011 at 09:11 AM
    So you ask...Why is there so much crime? The burst of crime that is taking place in your beloved city and the rest of the country, is not something that happened over night. This is what you get when you consistently suppress and ignore real issues. These crime waves are a direct result of lack of respect, opportunity, and support. Now you have a serious problem. Many of these "thugs" grew up watching their grandparents or single parents struggle and endure ridicule while trying to provide the "RIGHT-WAY". In the eyes of many of the black youth, the "RIGHT-WAY" includes taking whatever job opportunities that their white counterparts WOULD NOT perform, and doing it with a smile while being disrespected by society as a whole. On top of all of that, their parents' hard work provided just enough money for them to live in poverty. At the same time, the youth are also watching criminals and gang members prosper without having to worry about money or tolerate disrespect. Todays youth is not as dumb/lazy as you think. They know that the "Good Ole Boy Network" will GREATLY LIMIT their chances for professional success. This is no longer viewed as speculation, but it is now common knowledge. The youth are sadly going where real opportunity lies "FOR THEM"...unfortunately for todays society..."THEIR" opportunity is not in school or the work field(stats from this article prove it!). I didn't make the game, but I can surely commentate as we watch...America, you have created a society of angry folks who are no longer interested in hearing your lies about the "American Dream" that they are excluded from. All of a sudden it's a problem now that crime has exploded. No one wanted to listen when they marched and demonstrated...Looks like they have your attention now. So sad, but so true! Don't blame me, My companies pay taxes and employ individuals that you will not give a chance...Your turn!
  • by Educated decisions? Location: Plymouth on May 4, 2011 at 07:39 AM
    Why would it be important for a board to be diverse? How can someone make decisions when they don't understand who they are making decisions for? @anon- you're right that you must achieve before you recieve, but if others (leaders) won't give you a chance to achieve simply because of your race than how can you advance? You may not think there is racism still, but as an African American pursuing a dual Master's degree while working full time and raising a family, I can attest that there is. To proactive intervention- There are many minorities trying to no avail. Many work towards goals of being part of higher management but often given excuses despite their experience or education.
  • by Kimo Location: Belhaven on May 4, 2011 at 06:16 AM
    SO ??????
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on May 4, 2011 at 06:07 AM
    Like they say, "Its not what you know, its who you know". Besides maybe daddy either owns or is a big stock holder. What other qualifications do you need?
  • by Anonymous Location: williamston on May 4, 2011 at 05:56 AM
    This makes me want to vomit!!!!!! Who cares what color the people are just as long as there are people in there making sound "educated" decisions for the company.
  • by anon Location: nc on May 4, 2011 at 05:05 AM
    I wonder if the school dropout rate among minorities has anything to do with this? The purpose of an executive board is to make educated financial decisions, not to be colorful or politically correct. Sometimes you do have to achieve before you receive.
  • by Proactive Intervention? on May 4, 2011 at 03:34 AM
    This "fancy phrase" boils down to "Just Do It". So the reason minorities aren't making it is because they don't try. They don't work towards such a goal.
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