Technology Boards Still Lack Women
The boards of tech companies have been trying to shed their image as nearly all-white, all-male clubs. Last month, Microsoft added two female directors. Twitter is expected to revamp its board to include more women and minorities after it finally added its first female director in late 2013.
And as Hewlett-Packard was splitting into two companies recently, the Rev. Jesse Jackson praised the two new companies’ boards — each of which now has four women and two African Americans — a year after he targeted HP for its lack of diversity.
But while the numbers may be improving, tech companies still lag behind most other industries when it comes to the gender makeup of their boards.
According to a report released last week by the corporate-governance research firm Equilar, the tech sector has the lowest percentage of companies with at least one woman on the board.
Those numbers came out after a report from Watermark, an executive women’s organization in California, released its own study showing that just 11 of the 223 largest publicly traded companies headquartered in the Bay Area have women in at least 30 percent of the company’s board seats or its five most highly compensated executive jobs. Of those 11, only three were tech companies.
The Equilar number — 93 percent of tech companies have at least one woman on the board — may sound good. And it’s a big leap from the 78 percent that did in 2010. But 100 percent of financial, health-care and utility companies have at least one woman at the top, and other industries’ numbers are also higher.
Equilar’s report shows that the tech industry was the second-lowest sector of Standard & Poor’s 500 when it came to the prevalence of women in board seats.
About 18 percent of board seats among the 72 tech companies in the S&P 500 are held by women, the report found, compared with 23 percent in the consumer goods sector and nearly 20 percent across the S&P 500. Only basic materials — mining, chemicals and other raw goods — companies had a smaller percentage of seats held by women, at 16 percent.
The Equilar study also tracked gender diversity in two areas that many studies of corporate boards ignore: the number of women holding leadership positions on the board (such as chairman, vice chairman and lead director) as well as the percentage of women holding seats on multiple boards.
The first figure is especially important. These are the people who make key decisions about the chief executive, set the board’s agenda and call for executive sessions.
On the whole, the numbers are extremely low: There are just 54 leadership positions on S&P 500 company boards that are held by women, or less than 7 percent of all board leadership jobs.