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Business

More women join boards, but diversity still lags

Illinois companies have made progress in an effort to add more women to their boards, but the state still lags behind others in the pace of female director additions, a survey shows.

The organization 2020 Women on Boards, which aims to boost female representation on corporate boards to 20 percent or more by 2020, said women currently hold about 19.5 percent of board seats among Illinois companies. That’s slightly higher than 2016, but the figure still lags behind leaders like Washington, at 24.6 percent women, and neighboring states like Michigan and Wisconsin, at 23.5 and 21.3 percent respectively. In Indiana, just 16.5 percent of directors are women.

In many cases companies added board seats to improve diversity, 2020 Women on Boards said. Of 129 large companies surveyed nationwide that added women to their boards, 69 did so by increasing the size of their board.

Slightly less than a third of Illinois companies on the Fortune 1000, a list of the nation’s largest companies ranked by total revenue, have boards with 20 percent or more female directors, the group said. Overall, 19.8 percent of directors on the boards of Fortune 1000 companies are women.

Still, the figures are a sign of progress. Only eight of 77 Illinois-based Fortune 1000 companies had boards that were at least 20 percent female from 2010 through 2016. And the lack of diversity is more pronounced when including smaller organizations.

“Diversity of thought leadership on boards is essential for the sustainability of business of all sizes, as well as for the greater public good,” said Kathy Graham, chair of the 2020 Women on Boards Chicago Campaign Committee. “Recent allegations of longstanding abuse of women by leaders of well-known companies with zero representation of women on their boards underscore the urgency of this effort.”

sbomkamp@chicagotribune.com

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©2017 the Chicago Tribune

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