April 3, 2023

Women Of Color Now Outnumber Men Named “Dave” In The Boardroom

There are now more women of color than men named Dave or David sitting on corporate boards, according to a recent report by social impact venture Him For Her and Crunchbase.

Him For Her teamed up with Crunchbase for a fourth year to assess the gender diversity of over 600 high-growth private companies, representing nearly $200 billion in funding.

WOC vs Daves

Of the 4,610 board seats included in the study, 1 in 5 (20%) are held by men of color and 1 in 25 (4%) by women of color. Last year, women of color held 3% of board seats – the same percentage held by men named Dave or David.

The report also revealed that a third (32%) of the private companies studied have all-male boards and over three-quarters (76%) do not include a single woman of color.

Life sciences vs tech

Women of color were better represented on the boards of life sciences companies than tech companies, holding 5% of the seats on life science boards versus only 3% on tech boards. The researcher note that these differences cannot be explained by board size.

Pipeline vs network

The researchers say that the root cause that inhibits board diversity has become clearer: “It’s not a pipeline problem. It’s a network problem. Boards have been over-reliant on their personal networks to source candidates.”

The researchers point to two factors that inhibit board diversity among high-growth private companies: the lack of gender diversity among investors and the entrepreneurs they fund, and the lack of urgency in appointing independent board members.

Can Independent board seats help?

Independent board seats provide a more immediate way to introduce diversity of experience and perspective to the boardroom, yet many remain unfilled.

Where boards do have independent directors, only 28% of them are women, reflecting an over-reliance on existing networks to source candidates.

Read: More Women Are Becoming Fortune 500 CEOs, But Only Three Of Them Are WOC 

“Most CEOs and their boards recognize the value of independent directors, but the competing demands on a startup CEO can relegate this “important-but-not-urgent” opportunity to the back burner,” the researchers contunue.

“The good news is that once boards include a critical mass of women and people of color, the challenge of board diversity will be solved in perpetuity as the board network expands to include people with a wider variety of life experiences.”

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)