Some of America’s most prominent companies are addressing the problem by backing the Black Boardroom Initiative, a new program unveiled Wednesday with a goal of increasing the ratio of Black executives sitting on S&P 500 corporate boards to one in eight by 2028.
The Black Boardroom Initiative is also working to identify candidates to participate in a six month training and networking program. The group says it wants to raise the visibility of qualified Black director candidates, starting in the state of Washington, where most of the program’s sponsors are headquartered.
“This initiative will help to address this equity imbalance by identifying leading Black executives who are board-ready, preparing them for critical issues that boards are facing today, and establishing a pipeline between program participants and public companies,” Perkins Coie Partner and initiative Co-Leader Stewart Landefeld said in a written statement.
“I think that’s where the consciousness went first, to increase the number of women on boards,” said Cate Goethals, founder of the Better Boards Initiative, a non-profit working to increase board diversity that is supporting the Black Boardroom Initiative.
“Half the population is female,” Goethals continued. “Unfortunately the focus has been on appointing women and only in the recent couple years has their been [focus] on appointing people of color in general.”
Mike Hyter, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council believes there’s also a stigma about the talent and abilities of Black executives that needs to be addressed. Hyter’s organization, which is comprised of current and former Black CEOs and senior executives, has been working to diversify corporate C-suites since 1986.
“The perception of limited ability as compared to others is still prominent in spite of the incremental gains, which is why we need to remain vigilant,” Hyter recently told CNN Business.