Last month, Equilar, the California-based ‘board intelligence’ and pay research firm, announced the launch of the Equilar Diversity Network (EDN), a platform for diverse, board-ready directors.
EDN is described as the “registry of registries,” connecting candidates from diversity organizations with boards. EDN is available through Equilar’s existing BoardEdge platform that includes more than 150,000 public company executive and board member profiles.
It is similar in some ways to the Diverse Director DataSource (3D) that was launched by pension giants CalPERS and CalSTRS in 2011 and which is currently ‘moving house’ after MSCI said it didn’t fit with its existing services.
Belen Gomez, Equilar’s Director of Research and Board Services, said that currently there were 10 founding partners involved with the EDN – such as Stanford Women on Boards and the US 30% Club for example – but that there were more than half a dozen other organizations in the pipeline that could be added in the coming months.
“We identified various organisations and reached out to them,” said Gomez, “because they were already leaders in the space, had a visible passion for promoting diversity in boardrooms and already had their own databases of candidates that we were able to bring together in one place.” She explained that EDN offers a platform for them to put forward board-ready directors.The partner organisations are responsible for vetting the candidates.
Most of BoardEdge’s profiles are public company executives and board members that Equilar has been collecting for over 16 years. EDN’s development began around six months ago and has supplied nearly 1,000 profiles so far. “It allows us to pull in those candidates who may not have public company executive or board experience but have great private or non-profit experience that might be valuable for a broad range of organizations,” said Gomez.
Gomez confirmed that they were continuing to expand partnerships post-launch of the database. “We have ongoing conversations with a number of groups representing minorities,” she said – adding that Equilar would be happy to partner with 3D.
A new Equilar study found that 61% of S&P 500 companies disclosed that they “consider ethnic or racial diversity” when assessing board candidates – although this was mostly still boilerplate. Only 12.8%, or 64 companies, of the S&P 500 disclosed “the actual composition of their current boards in terms of ethnicity or race”. And progress on gender diversity is also sluggish. Women accounted for 21.3% of S&P 500 board seats in 2016, but that figure increased by only five percentage points in the last five years.
This slow progress has been attributed to the supposed lack of “qualified female candidates”. EDN is designed to address this.