How to accelerate gender diversity on boards  

5 February 2018:

The tone of much public discourse on the issue of women’s representation on boards has been pessimistic of late, and understandably so, given the crawl toward gender parity in the United States. Women currently hold 19 percent of board positions there, while in European countries such as France, Norway, and Sweden, where legislative or voluntary targets are in place, they hold more than 30 percent.

That said, some progressive companies are taking the lead, looking for female board members in new places and bringing them on board in new ways. Many feel they still have a long way to go, but their experiences are salutary for those that are lagging behind and want to better understand how to make change happen.

We recently conducted an analysis of companies in the S&P 500 to identify top performers in board diversity, defined as those with the highest percentage of women on their boards as of August 2016 (see Exhibit 1 for the top 25 and footnote 1 for the full top 60).1 It showed that women occupied at least 33 percent of board seats among the top 50 companies (up to nearly 60 percent for the highest percentage). In all, female representation on those boards has increased on average by 24 percentage points since 2005.

We then conducted a series of interviews with the CEOs and board chairs from a number of those standout companies, as well as some European businesses that have made similar progress. (For in-depth insights from executives at some of these companies, see “Straight talk about gender diversity in the boardroom and beyond.”) Our goal was to hear directly from them about their gender-diversity journeys—the challenges they’ve faced, the best practices they’ve adopted, and the benefits that they continue to reap from increased representation of women, as well as other minorities, on their boards.

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Source: McKinsey

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