News Roundup

Small businesses struggle; black blight seen on boards

Percentage of Blacks on Fortune 500 Boards Decreases

0724_News-Brief-ELC1Despite the fact that more African Americans are seated on the board of directors at Fortune 500 companies, the percentage of blacks on boards has decreased since 2004, reports a new study.

The number of blacks on boards increased from 255 in 2004 to 278 in 2008, according to the Executive Leadership Council’s “Census of African Americans on Boards of Directors of Fortune 500 Companies.” Yet, 39% of Fortune 500 companies have no African American directors.

“Businesses understand the economic benefits of diversity. They talk about it, but not all of them have a plan for achieving it,” said Carl Brooks, president and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council, a networking and leadership development forum for C-suite level executives. “We expect this report to spur meaningful progress in this important area of management and governance.”

Since 2004, the total number of board seats declined by 16 to 5,556, but the number of African American board seats declined by 36. Additionally, the mix of Fortune 500 companies has changed with some companies moving off of the list and other, previously smaller organizations, moving onto it.

Of the 278 African American board directors, 67 of them serve on two corporate boards, and 28 serve on three or more. This means that some black board directors are doing double and triple duty on the same boards, while other companies aren’t tapping any blacks at all.

The results of the study also show that the higher a company ranks on the Fortune 500 list, the more likely it is to have African Americans on its board of directors.

The report is the third report of its kind commissioned by the ELC.

–Marcia A. Wade

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