It’s shaping up as a good year for gender parity at the largest U.S. companies -- but there’s still a long way to go.
Wednesday’s appointment of Jami Miscik as a General Motors Co. director brings the number of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies with women in half or more of their board seats to at least 11 this year, from about six at the end of 2017, according to Bloomberg data. Auto-salvage company Copart Inc. is the only company in the S&P 500 with no woman on its board, the data shows.
“They are leading the way for other companies to follow,” said Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, chief executive officer of 2020 Women on Boards, which is advocating for at least 20% female directors at all U.S. company boards by 2020. “We’re on the cusp of this momentum that’s so exciting.”
Greater parity for women in corporate leadership is seen as key to curtailing harassment and discrimination in the workplace. The very visible accusations of sexual harassment against hundreds of executives over the last year as part of the #MeToo movement have intensified calls for companies to cede more power to women. State Street Corp. and BlackRock Inc. have been voting against companies that lack female directors, adding to pressure.
Changes in the board lineup at CBS Corp., Best Buy Co., and Omnicom Group Inc. have pushed those boards to a majority women and Autodesk Inc. also hit 50% female directors this year, according to Bloomberg data and company filings. About 22% of the directors in the S&P 500 are female, according to executive recruiter Spencer Stuart.
'Still a Gap'
The work is far from done, says Berkhemer-Credaire, as hundreds of smaller companies lack even one female director. More than 400 Russell 3000 companies have no female board members, according to Bloomberg data.
“There’s still a gap,” she said. “It’s a great gap with a lot of companies that are nowhere near parity.”
More than 100 publicly traded companies based in California have until 2019 to add at least one woman by 2019 under a law signed last month by Governor Jerry Brown. The law requires a company with five directors to have at least two female members by 2021. If a board has six or more directors, three will have to be women.
The numbers are always fluid, as directors are added or retire at company boards.
At GM, CEO Mary Barra is the first woman to run a major automaker and a woman was just named as chief financial officer. Miscik’s arrival is actually the third time GM has reached board parity since 2016, but it’s been hard to maintain with various arrivals and departures. GM expanded the board to 12 with the addition of Miscik, 60, who is CEO of consulting company Kissinger Associates Inc. and a former deputy director for intelligence at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Macy’s Inc., Ulta Beauty Inc., Viacom Inc., American Water Works Co. and Alliant Energy Corp. were already at least at parity at the end of last year, the Bloomberg data show. Navient Corp. was dropped from the S&P 500 in the last year and the departure of a director dropped Hologic Inc. off the parity list. Estee Lauder Cos. is counted as a having board parity until November, when a female director will retire.
By Jeff Green