S&P500: Denominator data used for new research by the Stockholm School of Economics on potential diversity washing

Denominator data used for new research by Stockholm School of Economics on potential diversity washing in S&P500 companies.

The study explores if the recent increase in gender and ethnic representation could be linked to a form of impression management rather than genuine diversity efforts by looking at the recycling phenomenon where board members serve or are being recycled on multiple boards. 

Of the S&P500 board members, more than ~85% are Caucasian, while ~9% are Black/African American, ~4% are Asian, and ~1% belong to another racial minority. For the composition related to gender, ~70% are men and ~30% are women. Keeping these statistics in mind, the study finds the following: 

  • Women are 27% more likely to serve on multiple boards than men (18.9% vs. 14.9%)
  • A Black/African American board member is ~100% more likely to serve on multiple boards than a Caucasian board member (29,4% vs. 15.1%)
  • Black/African American women are the group most likely to serve on multiple boards. 

The findings raise the question: is this recycling phenomenon related to diversity washing or is it an indication of an equity problem with too few female and Black/African American candidates?

What do you think?

Either way, it shows the need for granular data to understand not only what lies below aggregated representation statistics, but also the importance of intersectionality between DEI dimensions.

We need more research in DEI so please contact us if you would like free access to our data for academic purposes. If you are interested in further information about the study, please contact the authors Anders Bach Agerholm and Emilie Pemzec from the Stockholm School of Economics.