Women want company boards of directors to be more diverse – but men don’t

Corporate boys are a boys’ club – and men like it that way Photo: Erin JonassonWomen are more certain than men that it is critical to have diverse corporate boards, a new study shows.

Sixty-three per cent of women on corporate boards said that having female board members was “very important” in PriceWaterhouseCoopers’s annual survey of public company directors, but only 35 per cent of men felt this way.

The company polled more than 700 board members for its report, released on Tuesday. On racial diversity, women were less gung-ho, but still valued it more than men did: 46 per cent of female directors said that it was highly valuable to have people of colour on boards, compared with 27 per cent of men.

Women hold about a fifth of all board seats at Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index companies, according to Catalyst, an advocacy group.

Female directors were also clear on the specific benefits of having women colleagues. Women were twice as likely as men to say that diversity makes boards more effective and pushes companies to improve performance.

Men and women also disagreed about how difficult it would be to make boards less male. Forty-six per cent of female directors said there were enough diverse candidates to choose among, versus just 18 per cent of male colleagues.

Newer board members were more attuned to the value of diversity. Sixty-two per cent of people who had spent less than a year on a board said they “very much” agreed that diversity was crucial. Just 39 per cent of people who had the job for more than 10 years felt as strongly.

Older board members seemed to be facing unique pressure to leave their posts. Nearly 40 per cent of the board members surveyed said someone on their board should be removed, up from 31 per cent three years ago.

The top reason that people gave for their disappointment? Aging, which was said to have led to “diminished performance.”


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