It’s a known disparity: the proportion of racial and ethnic minority groups represented on company boards is significantly lower than their proportions in the population as a whole. Although the latest data shows notable gains, there is still a wide gap to close – for some groups more than others.
According to new data from ISS Corporate Solutions, racial and ethnic minorities now hold 20% of board seats at Russell 3000 companies. These are the 3,000 largest publicly-held companies in the United States and are used as a “benchmark” for the U.S. stock market. With significant influence on the American – and global – economy, the performance of these companies can indicate DEI progress or the lack thereof.
While the 20% representation is a notable increase from three years prior (in 2019, the number was only 12%), the gains have not been even across different groups. Those identifying as Black or African-American nearly doubled their share of board seats, from 4.4% in 2019 to 8.3% today. However, the same group represents just 1% of CEOs, and these numbers all fall short of the percentage of Black Americans in the overall population, which the Census Bureau puts at 13.6%.
Among leaders of Latino or Hispanic origin, the numbers are even more frustrating. Although they comprise 18.9% of the U.S. population, presently they account for just 3.6% of board seats.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people committed to closing the gap. One of the foremost organizations is the Latino Corporate Directors Association (LCDA), which is dedicated to preparing Latino and Hispanic leaders for board service and advocating for better representation on boards and in other leadership positions. Founded in 2016, the LCDA focuses on expanding opportunities for Latino leaders, growing both the “supply” and “demand” for Latino talent, raising awareness, and lifting the next wave of Latino directors.
“The persistent low numbers for Latinos [are] bad for business. Companies and boards have a Latino blindspot. There are thousands of qualified Latinos. “There is simply no excuse,” said LCDA President and CEO Esther Aguilera in response to the latest news. The lack of Latino leadership represents a missed opportunity in many ways: missing out on talent contributions from the overlooked leaders and missed chances to better connect with a broader range of communities.
“Latinos are two in ten Americans; we are driving 70% higher GDP and market share growth than any other group. We’re such a vital part of the economy. There are 60 million Latinos in our country, and we’re growing by about a million a year. Latinos are driving business formation at a higher rate than many other demographic groups, and this is especially true in the Latina community,” Aguilera told Blue Rock Search in 2022. And yet, she noted at the same time, 79% of Latinos felt that “they couldn’t come to the workplace and be their authentic selves”; parts of their identity had to be suppressed to advance – a common experience for members of many minorities.
For these reasons, the news about the Russell 3000 causes both optimism and frustration. Any progress is a positive thing, and we should celebrate the hard work of those who advocate for improved representation and re-evaluations of concepts like “leadership material” and workplace culture. Still, there is a long way to go before appropriate representation is achieved, and it will take a sustained effort from all corners to build a more diverse, equitable future.
By Ruben Moreno
About the Author
After a 25-year career in Corporate Human Resources and HR Executive Search, Ruben Moreno and his two partners co-founded Blue Rock Search based on a simple but ambitious vision of creating a firm that would “Change Lives and Organizations One Relationship at a Time.” Ruben leads the Blue Rock HR and Diversity Executive Search practice specializing in the identification, assessment, recruitment, and onboarding of Chief HR Officers and Chief Diversity Officers and their respective teams — inclusive of leaders in Talent Acquisition, Total Rewards, HRBP’s, Learning & OD, HR Technology, HR Operations, and HR Analytics. Ruben has helped place hundreds of HR Executives and built deep relationships within the CHRO community across multiple industry verticals. His clients consider him a trusted partner who takes the time to understand their business and add value beyond executive search.