Gender Parody: How to Get Even More White Men on Your Corporate Board

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By Stefanie Johnson

Unlike the United States, many European countries have seen declines in the percent of white men on corporate boards. The author presents five strategies commonly used board recruitment strategies guaranteed to maintain the status quo. 


In European countries like Norway, Belgium, Germany and France women hold 30 – 40% of corporate board seats. The legislative body of the European Union (the commission) has advocated for 40% of non-executive board members to be women. Among the FTSE 100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange) in the UK, women board directors have increased from 17.3% in 2013 to 27.7% in 2018 with aims of increasing that percentage to 33% by 2020.

In the United States, only 20% of board seats among the Fortune 500 are occupied by women. Although the government does not (wo)mandate the gender distribution of board members in the United States, groups like State Street Global Advisers and Blackrock are working to increase the number of women on boards. There has been an increase of 88% in the number of interventions by activist shareholders in recent years, including efforts to remove sitting CEOs who fail to increase board diversity.

Despite these pressures, the percent of women on corporate boards in the United States has stagnated and, for the first time in 8 years, declined in 2016. Data suggest that it will take until the end of 2055 to have board parity in the United States at the current rate. This raises the obvious question of how companies in Europe (and some U.S.-based companies) can learn from the way that most boards in the United States have been able to maintain the percentage of men on their corporate boards. Based on my own research, I have identified 5 key steps to limit women’s access to corporate boards.

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About the Author

Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson is Associate Professor of Leadership at the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. Dr. Johnson studies the intersection of leadership and diversity, focussing on (1) how unconscious bias affects the evaluation of leaders and (2) strategies that leaders can use to mitigate bias. 


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