US women ‘may not reach boardroom parity’

Women, who make up half the American workforce, may be 40 years or more from parity with men on US corporate boards, the US Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

About 23% of open seats in the Standard & Poor’s 1500 Index went to women in 2014, according to the GAO.

If that figure rose to about 50% - or half of all openings - boards would be evenly split between women and men by roughly 2055, the report said.

Women held about 16% of board seats in the S&P 1500 in 2014, up f rom 8% in 1997.

“There are ways we can move faster,” said Susan Stautberg, chairman and chief executive officer of the Women Corporate Directors Foundation, which advocates for more women board members.

European countries including Sweden and France have imposed quotas to get more women on boards, and the UK has moved the needle with a non-binding push from the government and public commitments by corporate chairmen.

The US has resisted regulation to speed up gender equality on boards. More than 350 of 1,846 public companies have no women and another 628 have only one.

The GAO said several factors inhibit more rapid change, including a lack of women in executive positions and low turnover of board seats.

About 600 board seats change hands each year among the S&P 1500, or about 4% of the total.

The report highlighted the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s effort to study whether better company disclosure of board and leadership diversity would help speed the process.

Funds representing about $1.12 trillion (€1.03 trillion) in investments, including the California Public Employees Retirement System and the New York City comptroller’s office, petitioned the SEC in March to require more disclosure, including gender details, for board nominees.


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