Corporate boards in Wisconsin are moving in the right direction with efforts to increase racial/ethnic and gender diversity, but more work is needed, according to a Board Diversity report released Monday by the Greater Milwaukee Committee in conjunction with Milwaukee Women inc.
In addition to the report, the GMC also announced at its membership meeting it will lead a new initiative on a CEO-to-CEO basis to facilitate board inclusion. The effort will managed by the organization’s Future Workforce Committee, led by ManpowerGroup chairman Jeff Joerres and Wisconsin Energy Corp. chairman and CEO Gale Klappa. Its goals include:
1. Support Milwaukee Women inc’s goal of moving from 15.5 percent to 25 percent women on WI50 boards by 2015. This means an increase from 69 to 111 seats, or 42 more board seats.
2. Bring WI50 companies up to the WI Fortune 50 numbers for ethnic minority directors from 8 percent in 2014 to 13 percent in 2018, with a goal of reaching the halfway mark of 10.5 percent by 2015. This means an increase from 34 to 57 seats, or 23 more board seats.
3. Create quarterly engagement opportunities for board candidates and corporations, and increase the size of the board candidate list by December 2015 from 85 to 200 qualified individuals.
Currently, approximately one in 10 board seats in the Wisconsin Top 50 is an underrepresented minority. Racial diversity in the Wisconsin Top 50 is about equal to the national average; however, women are increasing their presence in the board room.
“This year is the first time we’ve seen measurable improvement in gender diversity in three years, with 15.5 percent of directors in the Wisconsin Top 50 being women, up from 14.3 percent in 2013,” said Milwaukee Women inc chair Phyllis King. “That said, we still have significant work to do – and we look forward to working with the GMC and other organizations to continue improving these numbers.”
Nationally, there are strong efforts to drive board diversity as an important corporate governance issue. While there is much discussion about the issue, strong data is difficult to find. Companies are not required to report numbers outlining board diversity, leaving such information to be collected voluntarily, which many GMC member companies did for the survey.
“The results of this report can help us lead, because it allows our community to move from the question of ‘why’ to ‘how,’” said GMC president Julia Taylor. “It’s too easy to focus on the reasons that corporate governance does not reflect the population it often serves,” Taylor said. “We need to focus on how to bring about change in this field. We’re pleased with our ongoing collaboration with Milwaukee Women inc and other community organizations to lead this change.”
MWi began collecting gender diversity data in 2003. The GMC, in partnership with MWi, created a database in 2006 of potential board candidates who are female and/or of a racial or ethnic minority. The database, which is populated with nominations and submissions by GMC members, is available to any member of a company who is looking for potential diverse board nominees.
For more information and to see the full Board Diversity Report, visit www.gmconline.org.