The Equilar Diversity Network: The role of the “registry of registries” in getting diversity candidates on boards

The system connects boards with candidates from various diversity organisations.

Back in September, board intelligence firm Equilar launched its Equilar Diversity Network (EDN) — and said how many EDN candidates had joined a new public board in the second quarter of 2017.

EDN is a “registry of registries,” that connects boards with non-executive director candidates from various diversity organisations.

Users can access it from Equilar BoardEdge, which already holds more than 170,000 public company executive and board member profiles. The data includes the Diverse Director DataSource database originally founded by CalPERS and CalSTRS.


Among the list of appointed candidates were directors from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as a substantial number of female directors. They have been appointed to a wide range of boards in both Europe and North America in a diverse range of industries.

They include (diversity body first):

From The 30% Club: Leslie Varon at capital markets company Hamilton Lane

From Ascend Pinnacle: Amy Chang at Procter & Gamble and Viet Dinh at Scientific Games Corporation

From Diverse Director DataSource (3-D): Catherine Hughes at Royal Dutch Shell and Karen Rogge at aircraft leasing company AeroCentury Corp.

From the Latino Corporate Directors Association: Michael Camunez at Edison International

From Stanford Women on Boards, Women Corporate Directors (WCD) and Ascend Pinnacle: Caroline Tsay at Morningstar

From WCD: Mary Baglivo at Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Lydia Beebe at rail company Kansas City Southern and Isabelle Courville at engineering company SNC-Lavalin Group.

The latest quarter (the third quarter) saw another close to 70 candidates appointed to boards from the various databases that make up EDN, according to Belen Gomez, Senior Director of Board Services at Equilar.

I asked if there was any evidence that any of the candidates in this quarter or the prior quarter were recruited directly from EDN. Gomez said, however, that it wasn’t possible to tell whether the candidates were recruited from EDN because it is most likely one of many reasons for recruiting a candidate, including all of their accomplishments.

“We can’t take credit for it,” she said. “BoardEdge is one of many great resources and tools whereby companies recruit board members.” The latest Equilar Gender Diversity Index released said that, since 2016, 114 companies have added a woman to their all-male boards, about a 15% decrease over the year, and now, nearly 80% of public company boards have at least one woman.“Another sign of progress,” said the latest release, “is that the number of boards that have reached parity ticked up steadily once again in Q3 2017, the Equilar GDI found.

“Each quarter since the initiation of this study, the number of boards with at least 50% women has increased” from 21 to 27—half of which joined in the past quarter. The number of boards that have between 40% and 50% is also rising and now stands at 76, up from 63 in 2016.

Another Equilar study found that companies are responding to calls for greater diversity from shareholders and stakeholders; 61% of S&P 500 companies disclosed that they “consider ethnic or racial diversity” when assessing board candidates in their most recent proxy statements.

However, the press release notes that this can often be boilerplate, as the data shows “that they have yet to execute on that commitment at a broader level”. A much smaller number of S&P 500 companies disclosed the actual composition of their current boards in terms of ethnicity or race, only 12.8%, or 64 companies.

The same study found that female representation on boards had also been slow to increase. Women accounted for 21.3% of S&P 500 board seats according to the latest proxy data, but “that figure increased just five percentage points in the last five years”. This slow increase is said to be due to boards believing that there are few qualified women. However, an Equilar analysis of BoardEdge profiles, conducted earlier this year with The US 30% Club, found that “approximately four in five females currently serving as public company executives had never served on a board”.

The press release quoted Steve Odland, President and CEO of the Committee for Economic Development (CED), one of EDN’s partners, and former CEO of Office Depot.

He said: “Amid growing global competition, many boards are moving beyond the compliance role to emphasizing strategic planning for long-term innovation and growth. More than ever before, boards comprised of broad diversity and thought will help companies to avert tunnel vision and be positioned for success.”

Launched in September 2016 to advance diverse representation in boardrooms across the globe, EDN now consists of 14 partner organizations and nearly 3,000 diverse board candidates. As well as the above organisations, EDN’s partners Include: Athena Alliance, Catalyst, Directors & Boards, DirectWomen, Stanford Women on Boards, Wellesley Business Leadership Council, Women in the Boardroom and Women’s YPO.