The Future Of Black Women In Corporate Board Positions Hangs In The Balance

The Future Of Black Women In Corporate Board Positions Hangs In The Balance

Obtaining corporate board positions could become more complicated if the U.S. Supreme Court eradicates affirmative action this summer.

The decision hangs in the balance as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares for an upcoming ruling on two cases to determine if race should be considered in college admissions. Banning affirmative action will also impact the likelihood of Black women in corporate board positions.

In 2021, Black women gained a record number of seats—168 Black women held 231 spots of the over 5,500 seats—in the boardrooms of S&P 500 companies, according to ISS Corporate Solutions.

Still, just 4% of Black women have earned a seat at the table.

Merline Saintil, co-founder of Black Women on Boards, said Black women have trouble landing corporate board positions due to a lack of access to the right networks. Whites with access to networks are likely to have held previous C-suite positions that distinguish their resumes from those of Black women.

Despite impressive work experiences, Black women appointed to corporate boards are likely taking a seat for the first time. Their lack of connection to networks is apparent when pitted against their white counterparts.

College is one place Black women can connect to the right networks, and affirmative action ensures that institutions “address racial discrimination by recognizing and responding to the structural barriers denied to underrepresented students access to higher education,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The absence of affirmative action could result in a significant decrease in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and higher education. Katharine Meyer, a fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution said,

“I think these policies do increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of particularly the flagship institutions in a state,” she told U.S. News & World Report.

Meyer added that institutions “aren’t able to overcome the loss in diversity from banning affirmative action” after affirmative action has been banned in a state.

A study noted, “the number of Black, Hispanic, and Native American students enrolled at the nine surveyed flagship universities was 11.2 percentage points less than the share of high school graduates from these demographic groups in the states where the schools are located. This gap rose to 13.9 percentage points immediately after the ban and, by 2015, to 14.3 percentage points.” 

The executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 required government contractors to employ applicants and treat employees “without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”

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