Large companies — those worth $5 billion or more — appointed nearly three times as many women as men to their boards of directors during the second and third quarters last year, showing just how eager they are to diversify their governance teams and comply with mounting pressure for equality. “The more women board directors a company has in the past, the more women corporate officers it will have in the future,” concluded a 2008 study by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that promotes women in the workplace.
A recent Australian study confirmed this finding for companies listed on that country’s stock exchange. Diversity entrepreneurs have spread the gospel, and not only with regard to women. They hold that increasing the diversity of directors encourages companies “to be more open to hiring women and minority employees,” in the words of BoardEffect, a business-communications software company.
But a highly diverse board does not necessarily mean that the executives who run a company are — or ever become — truly diverse. In fact, the board frequently serves as a smokescreen to conceal just how white a company’s leaders (the CEO and his team) are.