Corporate board gender diversity in Wisconsin increases marginally

Top 50 public firms up to 16.9% female directors

Woman business leader

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:21 pm

The number of women on Wisconsin’s corporate boards increased marginally in 2016, adding more gender diversity at the helm of the state’s largest public companies, according to the latest report from Milwaukee Women inc.


Women now hold 76, or 16.9 percent, of the 451 director positions at Wisconsin’s top 50 publicly traded companies. That’s up from 2015, when women held 15.8 percent of available board seats at publicly traded companies in the state. In addition, eight of the top 50 public companies now have three or more female directors, up from five companies—which had been the case since 2007.

Since 2008, Wisconsin’s top 50 public companies have increased female representation significantly, with 42 now including at least one woman on their boards. In 2008, just 32 did so.

“At 16.9 percent, Wisconsin has now reached the median for the percentage of women on public company boards compared to the nation,” said Sandy Wysocki, chair of Milwaukee Women inc and chief development officer at United Performing Arts Fund. “But while we made progress in 2016, there is much more work to be done.”

But at 47 of the top 50 private company boards in the state, there was no change in board gender diversity year-over-year. Women continue to hold 15.7 percent of the seats of those boards (45 out of 291).

In fact, 45 percent of the private firms had zero women on their boards. Just 23 percent of private companies had two or more female directors.

“There is an abundance of evidence that shows that when women are on boards, companies are more profitable,” Wysocki said. “Ultimately, our vision is for Wisconsin businesses to achieve a more balanced representation of diversity in their board composition in order to maximize company performance.”

Standouts in the 2016 report included Greenfield-based The Boucher Group Inc. with 50 percent women directors; Slinger-based Edward H. Wolf and Sons Inc. with 50 percent female directors; Milwaukee-based Meridian Industries Inc. with 50 percent; Racine-based S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. with 44 percent; and Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup Inc. with 33 percent.

Among the area companies with the lowest board gender diversity were Milwaukee-based Strattec Security Corp.; Milwaukee-based Physicians Realty Trust; Milwaukee-based Joy Global Inc.; Waukesha-based Husco International Inc.; and Kohler-based Kohler Co., all of which had zero female directors.

Milwaukee Women inc has been tracking diversity on Wisconsin’s corporate boards since 2003 and offers resources and connections to foster change. This is the third consecutive year the nonprofit has seen measurable growth in women on the top 50 boards.

In a 2014 cover story, BizTimes Milwaukee documented Milwaukee Women inc and other organizations’ efforts to get more women appointed to corporate boards.

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