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New Black Corporate Directors Triple from Previous Year, Highest Increase Since 2008

In a post George Floyd America, many companies were quick to publish press releases, make sizable donations, and announce a renewed commitment to racial equity. Some executives like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian even went as far as resigning to make room for Black people on Reddit’s board. Research published by Spencer Stuart Board Index shows corporate America is starting to make good on their diversity promise by hiring a record number of Black directors.

The U.S. Board Index Report showed last year, one-third (33 percent) of all new independent directors were Black. For context, the previous year, 2019, only 11 percent of new independent directors were Black. Not only did the percentage of Black directors triple in a year, this is also the highest percentage since the annual U.S. Board Index Report began tracking in 2008.

Spencer Stuart’s North American Board Practice lead Julie Daum told Forbes,
“It was a pretty staggering number… The real focus was on Black directors. That’s a reflection of what’s going on in society.”

Overall, nearly half (47 percent) of new director positions were filled by underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. This is more than doubled from the year prior when it only stood at 22 percent. Still, Daum tells Forbes the next step lies in addressing how long current members on boards are serving.

“It is the issue every year—turnover is slow… There’s no way every director who makes it to 75 is a great director.”
Daum adds, “it’s a great job, so I think there’s a little bit of ‘I’m not going to ask [another director] to leave because we know each other pretty well. We get along, we develop working relationships.’ They’re very uncomfortable discussions.”
The report showed 16 percent of new directors and 6 percent of all directors were age 50 or younger. Nearly half (51 percent) of boards with age limits have a mandatory retirement age of 75 or older.

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