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Report: Diversity Lacking on IL Corporate Boards

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Black people are especially under-represented on corporate boards of directors; 33 companies reported having zero African-American or Black directors. (fizkes/Adobe Stock)
Black people are especially under-represented on corporate boards of directors; 33 companies reported having zero African-American or Black directors. (fizkes/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 16, 2021

CHICAGO -- Corporate boards of directors in Illinois have a way to go to achieve racial and gender parity in representation.

In 2019, lawmakers passed a bill which requires corporations to file reports of their boards' demographic makeup, for analysis of statewide trends by professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) School of Labor and Employment Relations.

According to a report based on the 2020 data, women make up more than 20% of the average board, and racial and ethnic minorities make up roughly 15%.

Eunmi Mun, assistant professor at UIUC and the report's co-author, said companies that take inclusion seriously tend to have the most diversity.

"Companies that have completely homogeneous corporate boards tend not to have any policy about corporate diversity," Mun observed.

The report found Black or African-American directors are especially underrepresented, comprising just 6% of the average board; 33 companies reported zero Black directors.

The data came from 74 companies, missing a large number who didn't file the information with the Secretary of State's Office.

Richard Benton, also an assistant professor at UIUC and co-author of the report, said many companies point to their existing non-discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity policies.

But he noted appointing directors to boards is different from other hiring decisions, and the most promising policies build diversity and inclusion concerns into every stage of the board appointment process.

"That means ensuring that you're seeing diverse slates of candidates when you consider board appointments," Benton explained. "Directing executive search firms to provide diverse slates of candidates and going beyond just your existing social networks."

Benton argued corporate diversity is important for social justice reasons, to ensure leadership is representative of their employees or residents of their areas.

But he added there's a business case as well, stating diverse boards tend to govern better and take fewer risks.

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