Despite rampant calls for change and reform across the country over the past year, the message still isn’t being heard in many corporations. New data from the recruitment service BoardProspects has revealed that close to two-thirds of the nation’s 3,000 largest publicly traded companies lack a single Black board member.
According to USA Today reporter Jessica Guynn, “60% of the Russell 3000 index, which includes most publicly-traded companies on major U.S. stock exchanges, do not have a Black director including Amazon.com, GoDaddy, Jack in the Box, Molson Coors Brewing and Western Union.”
Guynn added that “of the nearly 27,000 board members in the Russell 3000, only 5.4% – 1,467 – are Black, underscoring the slow progress in overcoming historical patterns of racial inequity at the top of corporate America.”
That’s not to say that the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others had no impact on corporate structure. Black board members did account for 18.5% of all new board appointments to companies on the Russell 3000, said Mark Rogers, CEO of BoardProspects. In fact, of the 420-plus new Black director appointments that occurred between 2019 and 2020, Rogers said 62% took place in the seven months after Floyd died.
“Clearly corporate boards still have a long way to go in terms of achieving racial diversity, but we’ve seen some remarkable improvements just over the past year,” Rogers said in a statement.
BoardProspects found that during 2020, Russell 3000 companies added 4,145 new board members. Of those newly hired, 422 — or roughly 10% — were Black. Among the industries that the group analyzed, banking turned out to be the most inclusive, followed by biotechnology and internet companies.
Since companies have been so slow to diversify their own staffs, outside organizations are also now stepping in to help speed up the process. In addition to the ever-changing board requirements proposed by Nasdaq, Guynn has reported that some of the world’s largest investment managers, including BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors, have become more proactive in promoting diversity among boards, voting “against corporate directors in key positions who do not disclose the racial and ethnic composition of their board,” or directors who “belong to boards that do not have at least one member from an underrepresented group.”
“Lawmakers are also getting involved,” Guynn reported. “Last year, California passed a law requiring publicly traded corporations headquartered in the state to appoint directors from underrepresented communities to their boards.”