Women Continue Breaking the Glass Ceiling on Public Board Appointments

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As we reflect on the challenges we faced and opportunities 2021 brings, the Women Business Collaborative (WBC) and Equilar have shared good news from the private sector: The number of women and diverse women appointed to boards of public companies continues to increase. In December 2020, public companies appointed 107 women to boards of public companies as compared to 175 men. Women comprised 37.8% of overall board appointments. This reflects an upward trend in the fourth quarter of 2020, with women comprising on average 41% of appointees.

The appointments of women of color continues to rise. In December 2020, 28 of the women appointed identified as women of color, with women identifying as Black leading the way with 13 seats. Nine of these Black women are first-time board members – the pool of women holding board seats of public companies is growing. This is exactly what the WBC and its partners and champions are calling for– parity in leadership positions on all boards.

CEO of the WBC Edie Fraser said, “The latest data reflects that more companies are adding women, and the private sector is taking major steps towards true representation coupled with calls from groups such as Nasdaq to include at least one board member of diversity.”

This upward trend demonstrates the attention the private sector is paying to calls for diverse leadership on boards. The call is for boards of public companies to look more like the composition of the population, communities, customers and the public.

During 2020, the trend toward parity was positive.

Women gained a net of 1,055 seats on boards of public companies and replaced 115 seats previously held by men. Overall, women gained 2.3% of seats – going from 19.2% of board seats at the end of 2019 to 21.5% of board seats at the end of 2020.

Directors identifying as people of color comprised 12.5% of all the appointments in 2020. As information regarding race is self-reported, it is important to note the percentage of people of color appointed to public boards could be higher.

The overall trend across companies shows an increase in both the number of women and people of color appointed to boards of public companies. Equilar and WBC are tracking and analyzing the appointment of directors in terms of numbers, diversity and profile along with companies and industries in which female board members are present, as well as how many of the overall board seats are held by women. Overall, the organization feels the time is now for women to sit across all companies, boards, and sectors as it continues to celebrate, track, analyze, and promote women on boards of public companies.

The Women Business Collaborative is an unprecedented alliance and a movement focused on equal positions, pay and power for all business women.

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