Corporate Boards Taking Steps To Promote Diversity (Spencer Stuart)

New York (JULY 17, 2012) – Acknowledging the value that comes with a diverse board, a majority (75%) of corporate boards in the US are taking a broad range of actions to promote diversity in the boardroom from instituting diversity policies to asking executive recruiters to recommend diverse candidates.

The insights were revealed in a survey of corporate directors undertaken by Corporate Board Member magazine and Spencer Stuart, one of the world’s leading executive search consulting firms with a strong commitment toward promoting diversity in the boardroom having placed more than 550 female directors in the US. It appears that the basis for these actions is mostly self-driven. Only 11 percent of those surveyed reported having shareholders approach the company within the last three years about increasing race and/or gender diversity on the board.

Responses revealed that the three most common diversity initiatives were asking search firms to provide diverse candidates (63 percent), pro-actively including boardroom diversity as a board meeting agenda topic (56.5 percent) and instituting a board diversity policy (50 percent). Less than a majority (42 percent) required a diverse slate of candidate for every open board seat.

“Lack of turnover in the boardroom is a contributing problem,” said Julie Daum, co-leader Spencer Stuart North American Board & CEO Practice.

Supporting this point, 58 percent of those surveyed said the SEC rule that requires companies to disclose their policy on boardroom diversity will have a positive impact on promoting it.

In terms of the effectiveness of these actions, the 181 respondents reported that a general board diversity policy and asking search firms to include diversity criteria worked moderately to very well – 62.7 percent and 57.6 percent, respectively. Only 45.6 percent of respondents reported that a diversity requirement for open board seats worked moderately to very well.

The survey also questioned directors on what they perceive as challenges in their diversity efforts. The majority (72 percent) pointed to the challenge of balancing all the interests at hand with those they believe are most important when looking to fill a board seat and responded that “other qualifications are more important than diversity.” Almost as significant a hindrance is the fact that many directors perceive the diverse candidate pool to be too small. More than half (57%) of directors surveyed say there is a lack of qualified diverse candidates available.

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The Board Director Training Institute (BDTI) is a "public interest" nonprofit in Japan dedicated to training about directorship, corporate governance, and related management techniques. It is certified by the Japanese government to conduct these activities as a regulated nonprofit. Read a summary about BDTI here, and see a menu of its services for both corporations and investors here.

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