US 30% ‘critical mass campaign’ for women on boards aims for European success

Coalition steps up activity following ‘glacial progress’ in US board diversity.

US investors and corporate figures have launched what they are calling a “critical mass campaign” targeted at CEOs, institutions and other stakeholders to pressure them to back a target of 30% representation of multicultural women on every US-based publically listed company board by the end of 2015. The campaign indicates a significant internationalisation of the 30% initiative, which kicked off in the UK in 2010. It also coincides with the first anniversary of Lord Davies’ report ‘Women on Boards’ on 24th February, which came about following the 30% Club campaign in the UK. The Davies report recommended that FTSE100 listed companies should aim for a minimum of 25% female board member representation by 2015, which the government said it would monitor and legislate on in case of inaction.
The US campaign, called The 30% Coalition, is backed by signatories including Janice Hester Amey, Portfolio Manager, Corporate Governance Unit, at CalSTRS, Kathy Hannan, National Managing Partner of Diversity and Corporate Responsibility at KPMG and Douglas Conant, former President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company.
It was formed following a summit of institutional investors, corporate governance experts and board members in late 2011 to address the lack of gender diversity in corporate boardrooms, which cited “glacial progress” on increasing the number of women on US corporate boards.Kicking off its first public lobbying attempt, the 30% Coalition said so-called supply-side attempts such as training more women for director roles were currently not making a difference. European countries, it said, had taken “bold steps” to implement quotas and other demand-side initiatives to prompt companies to change their board recruitment and selection practices. It said a 2011 census of Fortune 500 companies by Catalyst, the research firm Link , found that women held just 16.1% of board seats in 2011 compared to 15.7% in 2010. The figures are lower looking at a broader slice of corporate America. According to Governance Metrics International, the share of board seats held by women was 12.1% in 2009 and rose to 12.3% in 2011 across 1,763 publicly traded US companies. Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane, president of InterOrganization Network (ION), the non-profit organization that convened last year’s summit, said: “When it comes to bringing diversity to corporate boards, progress has come to a halt. It’s time to set ambitious goals rather than settle for the current inertia. We formed The 30% Coalition to move the needle on an issue that is critical to women and to the success of American business.”