Jul 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

Boardroom diversity pays off

Data: BoardReady; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

There's a fresh data point on how corporate America fared during the pandemic year. Businesses with more diverse boards came out on top, according to data provided first to Axios by BoardReady, a nonprofit.

Why it matters: It adds to a ballooning body of research that shows that generally better business comes alongside boardrooms that are less old, male and white.

To be clear, the data doesn't prove companies did better because their boards were more diverse — there is a slew of other factors that play a role.

What they're saying: "There isn't enough data yet to show causation, but there's strong correlation," says Deanna Oppenheimer, founder of BoardReady.

By the numbers: As a cohort, the companies with more women on their boards saw the smallest year-over-year drop in revenue growth in 2020.

  • And a group of companies with board members whose ages spanned over 30 years saw an improvement in revenue growth compared to the prior year. The rest saw growth slow.
  • The businesses with at least 30% of seats filled by non-white executives saw a bigger jump in revenue growth. However, those that had between 20% and 30% non-white board executives fared worse than those with fewer non-white members.
  • BoardReady cautions that this data might be skewed because so few companies have enough non-white executives on their boards to meet that threshold.

What to watch: The data comes as there's a sea change of sorts in corporate America. Legislators, regulators and the Nasdaq are eyeing the makeup of corporations' top decision-makers — and pushing them to step it up on diversity.

  • "People used to ask the question: 'Why diversify?' The debate has now moved on from why to how," says Oppenheimer.

Where it stands: The numbers are improving, though still dismal.

Worth noting: BoardReady used revenue as a yardstick — rather than say, profits or EBITDA — to avoid the data being distorted by any adjustments companies made during the pandemic, the study says.

Go deeper: Read the report

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