The Boardroom: Forever the Old Boys' Club?

On the boards of leading corporations, blacks, women and other minorities are still seriously underrepresented. And African-American numbers have actually decreased.

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Yesterday, the Alliance for Board Diversity released a report with some troubling findings: There's been a decline in the combined number of seats for women and minorities on the boards of the nation's leading corporations, and the largest drop was among blacks.

Specifically, in Fortune 100 companies, between 2004 and 2010, African Americans lost more than 40 board seats, while white men increased their presence on corporate boards, adding more than 30. Numbers for women stayed pretty stable.

"It is troubling that groups already severely underrepresented on corporate boards have collectively experienced a decline over the last six years," Executive Leadership Council President and CEO Arnold W. Donald remarked in his assessment of the available data (ELC is a nonprofit whose members are African-American senior executives of Fortune 500 companies and equivalents). "Most business leaders recognize that inclusion and the diversity of thinking that results from it creates real value. Shareholder value for most of the companies listed in the census is being compromised by the lack of board diversity. A decline in any single group of minorities or women is not good, a collective decline is troubling."

Recent U.S. census data show that women and minority men make up 66 percent of the U.S. population. Yet the ABD report indicates that more than 325 of the Fortune 500 have less than 25 percent representation, nearly 100 have less than 10 percent and 37 companies have no women or minority representation whatsoever.

As Donald put it, "Few will debate that inclusion and the diversity of thinking that it brings to business challenges creates real shareholder value." So being troubled by these numbers isn't just about feeling bad for the people who are missing from the boardroom -- it's about the fact that they're bad business for everyone.

Read more at the Alliance for Board Diversity.

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