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Some fresh data just came out on attitudes among corporate board members, and it says a lot about how far the business world has to go when it comes to breaking the old boys club.
Women represent only one in five board members at S&P 500 companies, according to a report released Tuesday by the consulting firm PwC.
PwC asked the men on these boards about adding women as members, and in many cases the answer was, in effect, “We don’t see a need.”
The firm surveyed 884 public company directors on a broad array of issues.
Eighty-three percent of respondents were men, “closely aligning with the gender distribution of public company directors,” the report said.
Here are some of the findings:
The majority of those surveyed don’t think women need to have half the board seats.
“One in ten directors believes the optimal representation of women on boards should be 20% or less,” the report said, and “97% of those who believe this are male.”
With numbers like that, it’s perhaps not surprising that only 5% of people surveyed thought women should make up more than half of a board.
Since a majority of people surveyed – again, mostly men – think that women should have fewer than half of a board’s seats, that means most are happy with the status quo. For now, women only make up about 20% of boards.
The desire to keep women’s representation low defies reason, at least when considering financial repercussions. As PwC notes, “research has shown that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of female directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of female directors.” PwC cited a 2011 Catalyst study on the topic.
Men are less likely to think that there are enough eligible women to hire.
The people surveyed do seem to understand that a diverse board could be good for the company.
“More than eight in ten believe diversity at least somewhat enhances board effectiveness and company performance,” the report said, adding that women are more likely to believe this is true.
But they seemed to fall back on an old crutch when explaining why there isn’t more diversity: There aren’t enough good candidates.
Predictably, views on this are also split by gender.
Almost all of the women surveyed – 93% – think there are enough diverse candidates out there to choose from for corporate boards, while only 64% of men do.
Here’s more on the pipeline problem, from PwC’s perspective:
“One of the main impediments to building more diverse boards is that many boards look to current or former CEOs as potential director candidates. However, only 4% of S&P 500 CEOs are female, and only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are African-American. So in order to increase board diversity, the pool of potential director candidates needs to be expanded.
“To find more diverse candidates, boards will have to look in different places. There are often many untapped, highly qualified, and diverse candidates just a few steps below the C-suite – people who drive strategies, run large segments of the business, and function like CEOs.”