Corporate Board Practices in the Russell 3000 and S&P 500

While progress continues to be made, hundreds of US public companies still have an all-male board of directors. Only about 10 percent of S&P 500 companies explicitly disclose individual directors’ race (ethnicity), and 8 out of 10 of those board members are white.

Gender diversity has been accelerating, including among smaller companies, but female directors continue to represent less than one-fifth of the total population of board members in the Russell 3000, and 13.4 percent of Russell 3000 companies do not yet have a single woman on their board.

 The total share of women in the Russell 3000 director population is just 18.5 percent, an increase of only 4.2 percent since 2016. Moreover, of the companies with female directors, the majority have only one or two—on a board that, at the median, is composed of nine or 10 members. Even in the S&P 500 index, which in 2019 celebrated the election of at least one female director to the last remaining all-male boards, the total percentage of women continues to be shy of one-quarter of all board members. The lowest percentages of female directors are seen in the energy (12.7 percent), health care (17.2 percent), and information technology (17.4 percent) sectors. Energy companies, in particular, report the highest percentage of all-male boards (27.5 percent).

Leadership opportunities within the board are also not made equally available to women: almost all board chair positions remain held by men (only 4.7percent of companies in each of the Russell 3000 and S&P 500 indexes have a female board chair) and less than 1 out of 5 board committees in the Russell 3000 are led by women.

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