Since 1995, US presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions women have made to the US and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields. In the third of a series of short insights looking at the role of women in corporate America, we focus on the growth in the number of women on boards across the US’ main indexes since 2019.
- Women now make up more than a quarter of all directors.
- Growth in the number of women directors has been accomplished in some indexes by increasing the number of directors.
- The proportion of women directors in the S&P 500 is approaching 30%.
As the graph below shows, since 2019, there has been a clear growth in the proportion of women directors across each of the US’ four main indexes, the S&P 500, S&P 400, S&P 600 and the Russell 3000 excluding the S&P 1500. In some indexes, this has come about through a growth in the number of directors, particularly in the three indexes comprising the S&P 1500. While the absolute number of directors in the Russell 3000 excluding the S&P 1500 fell between 2019 and 2021, the number of directors overall has grown.
The data suggests that growth in the number of women directors was greatest among smaller companies in the US, but they were generally beginning from a lower starting point. For example, in the S&P 500, where growth was only around 3 percentage points, women already made up 26.4% of directors in 2019. In contrast, at the Russell 3000 excluding the S&P 1500, women comprised only 16.6% of directors in 2019; this has grown by more than 6 percentage points to 22.7% in 2021.
Overall, women now make up more than a quarter of all directors, 25.7%, up from just over a fifth of directors in 2019.
Companies seeking to recruit female directors can consult the diversity advocate Thirty Percent Coalition’s resources page.
Source: ISS Corporate Solutions Data Analytics, December 31, 2021
By Paul Hodgson, Senior Editor, ISS Corporate Solutions