Boards are tired of focusing on diversity, PwC finds

Board members see the benefits of diversity but are largely "ready to move onto other topics," according to PwC's 2019 Annual Corporate Directors Survey.

Just 38 percent of the board directors surveyed said they felt gender diversity on boards was "very important," and 26 percent said racial and ethnic diversity was a top priority, both down from last year. Even fewer (14 percent) felt age diversity was "very important."

Despite the decline in urgency around diversity initiatives, 87 percent of those surveyed agreed diversity improves board performance and 76 percent agreed that it improves company performance. 

The results of the survey suggest directors may be tiring of shareholder pressure to diversify. This year marked a pronounced increase in board members who felt investors focused too much on board gender diversity (63 percent in 2019, compared to 35 percent in 2018) and too much on racial and ethnic diversity (58 percent compared to 33 percent).

Even with recent progress, boards remain mostly male — 22.5 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies were held by women in 2018, according to a study conducted by Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity. They're also mostly white — 16.1 percent of Fortune 500 board directors were minorities in 2018. It is worth noting the respondents in PwC's survey mirror this ratio. PwC reports that 79 percent of the roughly 700 directors surveyed were male, and the majority were above 60 years old. PwC did not report on race and ethnicity.

Those surveyed may also be ready to shift gears because they feel boards will diversify naturally over time (67 percent), or in some cases, because their idea of diverse enough is already near. More than half of respondents said optimal board representation for women sits at 40 percent or less.

Read more here.

 

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