Sector News

16% of corporate board members say racial and gender diversity has no benefit 'at all'

October 17, 2017
Diversity & Inclusion

Despite research that shows the positive effects of greater board diversity—companies with it are more likely to have strong financial performance and fewer instances of bribery, corruption, shareholder battles, and fraud—some directors remain unconvinced about the value diversity brings to a company overall.

A new PwC survey of nearly 900 directors found that a majority of them—73%—recognize that diversity is beneficial. Of that segment, 94% said gender and racial diversity brings unique perspectives to the boardroom, 82% agreed that it enhances board performance, and 59% tied it to better company performance.

Yet a small but startling share—16%—said that gender and racial diversity has no benefits at all. (Another 11% said his or her board didn’t have diversity and therefore didn’t remark on its upside.)

Subscribe: The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter on powerful women.

What’s perhaps just as concerning is how directors split at a more fundamental level, with large swaths of respondents—33% and 24%, respectively—saying socioeconomic diversity and racial diversity are “not at all important” to fostering diversity of thought in the boardroom.

Those findings may help explain respondents’ apparent satisfaction with the current levels of diversity on corporate boards. More than half of directors—58%—said that their board has achieved racial diversity, but outside research from executive search firm Spencer Stuart shows that just 15% of board seats at the top 200 S&P 500 companies belonged to racial minorities. Women held just 21% of S&P 500 board seats last year (up from 20% the year prior).

“We’re definitely on the journey to mak[ing] change, but some of the results were quite astounding,” says Paula Loop, leader of PwC’s Governance Insights Center.

But there are some hopeful clues buried among the alarming conclusions. They suggest that as more marginalized groups—women in particular—continue to pick up board seats amid pressure from institutional investors like State Street Global Advisors and BlackRock, they could provide more pro-diversity perspectives.

This year’s study found that female board members are more likely than male directors to say that gender and racial diversity has had a positive effect on the board and on the company at large, and they are more likely to recognize certain demographic attributes as “very important” to achieving diversity. Forty-two percent of women, for instance, said racial diversity was vital, versus 20% of their male counterparts.

Male directors, meanwhile, displayed more resistance to the corporate diversity push in general. Of the 27% of directors who said there is too much attention on gender diversity, 97% of those respondents were men.

By Claire Zillman

Source: Fortune

comments closed

Related News

June 24, 2022

The real reason diversity is lacking at the top

Diversity & Inclusion

It’s a persistent myth: if a company recruits enough employees from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, a sufficient number will, over time, rise through the organization to create a diverse culture at all levels. But that is not happening.

June 19, 2022

BIO: ‘Diversity candidates’ and knowledge ‘shortfalls’: Women in biotech say ‘I’m here to do my job’ despite toxic tropes

Diversity & Inclusion

The script at BIO this year could not have been more clear: Progress on diversity is being made, but more work needs to be done. Yet still, an undercurrent of biotech’s all-boys brand-of-old tugged at the heels of efforts to bolster those long-excluded from positions of authority.

June 11, 2022

To fix the labor shortage, solve the care crisis

Diversity & Inclusion

Another vital antidote to the labor shortage is fixing the care economy, made up of people who provide paid and unpaid care. (See “Overview of the Care Economy.”) Within the care economy, two related and somewhat hidden issues are crucial to the long-term health of the US labor market.