Has California’s Board Diversity Movement Been Effective?

California has two of the most progressive board diversity laws in the country. The first, SB 826, requires publicly traded companies to have a minimum number of women directors; while another, AB 979 mandates a minimum number of directors from underrepresented communities. Both statutes are facing legal challenges in California’s state and federal courts, and several important rulings are expected soon.

In light of these pending decisions, our research team analyzed changes in the board composition of 70 CA-based companies in the S&P 500, beginning in 2016. We looked at these companies both in terms of the total number of seats held by self-identified diverse Americans, and the changes in their board composition on a percentage basis.

Of the companies we analyzed: 

  • 129 board seats have been secured by ethnically diverse individuals since 2016, an increase of 15.5%.
  • Black Americans have more than doubled their representation, going from 24 seats in 2016 to 62 today. Black Americans now hold 8.8% of these board seats, which trails their 14% representation in the general population.
  • Hispanics have made slight gains, going from 20 seats to 28 today. Despite this progress, Hispanics only hold 5.5% of the total number of current board seats, far trailing their 19% representation in the general population.
  • Asian Americans held 55 board seats in 2016, versus 74 today. Asian Americans now hold 10.1% of the total number of board seats among these companies, slightly more than their 7% representation in the general population. 
  • Women have secured nearly 100 new board seats since 2016, an increase of 11.5%. Women now hold 239 board seats among these companies, which represents nearly a third of the total seats (32.5%).
  • California based S&P 500 companies that have notably increased the number of women on their boards include Walt Disney, Intel, Cooper Companies, Ross Stores, eBay, Intuitive Surgical, Autodesk, Equinix, and Public Storage.
  • DiversIQ’s research shows that LGBTQ+ representation has remained stagnant, as ten board members self-identified as LGBTQ+ in 2016, and only 12 do so today. This represents 1.6% of the total number of board seats, far less than the 7.1% of U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQ+, according to a Gallup poll released in February. 

For more board diversity data and trends, visit our public board of directors dashboard, which features granular information that is easily sortable by company, industry sector, and level of disclosure.

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