Some Businesses Implementing Initiatives for Gender Parity at Board Level

Joann S. Lublin reported in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that, “A small but growing number of U.S. companies have intensified their push to increase the ranks of women on their boards as businesses pay greater attention to gender parity at all levels.

“These initiatives are bearing fruit as companies revamp the way they recruit female directors. Some companies have begun to restrict initial searches to women, while others insist on interviewing at least one woman for director spots. Among those pursuing such strategies are Ecolab Inc., Symantec Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Voya Financial Inc., Pinterest Inc. and Nucor Corp.”

The Journal article noted that, “These extra efforts have yet to alter the sluggish progress on board gender diversity, however. Women held less than one-fifth of directorships at S&P companies last year, a slight gain from the prior year, according to Catalyst, a research group. A 2011 Catalyst study found significantly better financial results at big businesses with three or more female directors than those with none.

“‘The system produces white male candidates unless board leaders deliberately do something different,’ said Karen Horn, chairman of the National Association of Corporate Directors.

“But ‘people are beginning to figure out how recruiting more women to boards is done,’ added Ms. Horn, who has served on nine public-company boards.”

Ms. Lublin added that, “Other businesses try a version of the Rooney Rule, which requires that at least one woman or underrepresented minority be interviewed for positions. The National Football League created the rule to ensure that teams interviewed minority candidates for head-coaching and general-manager jobs.

“Voya Financial informally took this approach after the provider of retirement, life insurance and investment services went public in spring 2013 with a nine-man board. CEO Rodney O. Martin Jr. and another director soon interviewed male and female prospects.”

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