New target of 50% female representation on boards set to achieve gender parity

2020 Women on Boards' new target comes as it achieved its previous goals

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For the women who make up half the workforce, “parity” is not 22.6 per cent.

That’s the message from Malli Gero as the organisation she co-founded a decade ago, 2020 Women on Boards, sets a new goal this week to achieve 50-50 representation in the boardrooms of Russell 3000 companies, up from 22.6 per cent last year.

The group met its first goal, 20 per cent women on Fortune 1000 boards, in 2017. It shifted to 20 per cent of the larger Russell index, a goal that was surpassed in 2019. The target now is parity, and the group is changing its name to 5050 Women on Boards.

“Twenty per cent was meant to be a baseline, not the end goal,” said Ms Gero, whose group uses email campaigns and an interactive directory of company boardroom statistics to reward companies that meet the organization’s goals and pressure those that don’t. “I would like to live to see this happen.”

Researcher Equilar now estimates the Russell 3000 boards could reach gender parity by 2030, at the current rate of progress.

The pace has quickened in the past few years as investors such as BlackRock and Vanguard Group have been voting against directors at companies that lack women on their boards.

Also, California passed a law in 2018 that required at least one woman on most boards by 2019 and as many as three by the end of this year. Consultants such as McKinsey & Co have found that the diversity of a company correlates with improved financial performance.

So far, 5050 Women on Boards says 154 companies in the Russell 3000 have equal or female-majority boards.

Another 221 have no women, and 843 have only one. To add more pressure, the group plans an email campaign to encourage companies with only one female director to add more, reminding them that “one is not done”, Ms Gero said.