October 6, 2015
We’re in an unprecedented era in shareholder engagement, and as a result, the make-up of U.S. boardrooms is changing to reflect this new reality. Rules and regulations following Dodd-Frank have heightened the availability of information and awareness around issues inside the boardroom, and the increasing influence of advanced technology and shareholder activism requires new skillsets and fresh perspectives among directors.
Institutional investors regularly evaluate board composition—including age, tenure, gender—and they already have tools to access and analyze these elements across their portfolios. With the ever-increasing accessibility of information, investors are asking for more clarity and transparency from company boards.
To provide perspective on the impact of these trends, Equilar crunched the numbers on Fortune 1000 boards to identify what’s happening with board composition at the most successful U.S. companies.
Average age and tenure on Fortune 1000 boards has decreased since the introduction of Dodd-Frank five years ago, suggesting that companies are filling open positions with younger directors than they have in the past, and that board turnover has accelerated. Since 2007, average director age has decreased steadily across the Fortune 1000, down 2.6 years to 63.0. In the Fortune 100, there’s been a larger decrease of 3.0 years.
The change in tenor among America’s boardrooms has translated to a slightly shorter average tenure as well, especially at Fortune 100 companies, where average tenure dipped to 8.9 years in 2014. The trend line shows a consistent decrease in the Fortune 100, while across the larger sample sizes of the Fortune 500 and 1000, average tenure flat-lined in recent years, remaining well above nine years.
Gender diversity in the boardroom is one of the most frequently discussed topics in corporate governance as boards seek more diversity to gain a wider range of skillsets and perspectives to face a more engaged shareholder constituency. In the past five years, we’ve seen the percentage of female directors at Fortune 100 companies rise above the 20% mark, and increases for the Fortune 500 and 1000 were even larger, up 3.6 and 3.7 percentage points, respectively, though these figures were growing from a much smaller base.
The increase in gender diversity across the Fortune 1000 is undoubtedly a contribution of many, but there are companies that stand out as leaders. In December 2009, the SEC mandated that companies disclose the director nomination process for considering diverse candidates. Equilar pulled a list of 10 companies in the Fortune 1000 that saw the greatest increases in that time frame, each increasing the number of females on their boards by more than 25 percentage points. Even though some of these companies started from scratch, there’s no denial that they’ve committed to diversifying their boards, and all are more than 10 percentage points above the average for the Fortune 1000.
The companies in the chart above have been the biggest change agents, yet only one of them—Ulta—made the list of companies with the highest percentage of female board members in 2014. Avon earns that distinction, and fittingly, considering “the company for women” is a part of its logo—a full two-thirds of Avon’s board is female. Four other companies hit the 50% mark, meaning that gender diversity is truly gender equality when it comes to director seats.
Overall, the trends in the Fortune 1000 are clear: Average age and tenure are sliding, and the number of female board members is increasing, and all of these trends are most pronounced at the largest and most successful U.S. companies. These companies are typically on the leading edge, but are they reflective of indicative of a larger shift in America’s boardrooms? Only time will tell, and we’ll be keeping an eye on these trends as they unfold.
For more information on Equilar’s research and data analysis, please contact Dan Marcec, Director of Content & Marketing Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The data in this article is compiled from Equilar’s BoardEdge, a new data platform that features detailed information on more than 135,000 U.S. board members. BoardEdge not only includes more than a dozen categories about each board member’s background and leadership experience, but also features a network tool clearly displaying how board members are connected to each other. This last feature—connection—is unavailable in the marketplace, and it provides investors and companies a direct application of the data for board assessment, planning and networking.
For more information on BoardEdge, or to request a demo, click here.