Board Diversity for Women Continues to Improve

Inspirational Women 2022
(Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business -

Earlier this year, Women Business Collaborative (WBC) and 50/50 Women on Boards (50/50 WOB) released “Women Leading Boards,” a new benchmark report for tracking board diversity, and while there is still work to be done, the results point to a dramatic leap forward last year in terms of women participating on boards.

“Women Leading Boards” contains collective data and insight from 23 organizations focused on advancing women and diversity boards and is the only industry tracker for appointees across the Fortune 500, S&P 500, Russell 3000 and private companies. The report shows that 2021 was a watershed year for board diversity, with women representing 42.5% of all new appointees for public companies in the U.S. Women held 27% of all board seats in 2021, up from 24% in 2020 - the largest year-over-year increase among the Russell 3000 and far above the Russell 3000’s average annual increase of 2.14% for women on boards. The report also shows the need for achieving greater diversity on boards. Based on those who chose to self-disclose their race, only 6% of women of color and 9% of men of color hold board seats.

Additionally, at the current rate of change, women are not expected to hold 50% of corporate board seats for at least another eight years. To cut the timeline in half and reach this goal by 2026, the percentage of women appointees needs to increase by 5.8% year over year.

“This new report shows that while gender diversity is increasing in U.S. boardrooms, bold change still needs to occur,” said Edie Fraser, CEO of WBC. “Additionally, with more women exiting the workforce due to the effect of the pandemic, organizations need to ensure a robust pipeline of qualified women board candidates.”

“This report highlights the work that remains to continue to drive the movement for diversity on corporate boards,” said Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of 50/50 Women on Boards. “The more organizations shed light on this issue, the more women and women of color will be encouraged to find their path to a corporate board earlier in their careers.” The report also features six insight pieces from 50/50 WOB, Bolster, Diligent Institute, Digital Directors Network & Emerald Growth Partners LLC, the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA) and The Lodis Forum.

Using data provided by WBC key partner organizations, key findings include: • As of February 2022, 114 women were appointed to public company boards, with 58% of those women being appointed to a board for the first time. • In 2021, 42.3% of all public board appointments were women. • As of December 31, 2021, women hold 26.7% of the Russell 3000 company board seats, a 10.7% increase over the last five years. • 61.6% of women appointments in 2021 were first-time appointments. • The share of newly appointed directors who come from nontraditional backgrounds has increased from 13.0% to 18.9% since 2019.

The Women Business Collaborative (WBC) is an unprecedented alliance of more than 65 women’s business organizations and hundreds of business leaders building a movement to achieve equal positions, pay and power for all women in business.