- Heidrick & Struggles' report breaks down trends in last year’s Fortune 500 board appointments. Out of the 425 vacant or newly created board seats that were filled, 28% of seats went to Black directors. The year before that, just 10% of board appointments made were of Black people.
- The 2021 study also found that three-fourths of these Black director appointments were made after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
- Appointment of women to Fortune 500 boards dropped: 41% of new appointments were female, compared to 44% of appointments last year. This data suggests that Fortune 500 boards may be "making trade-offs among diverse candidates" based on where society is focusing its D&I efforts — as opposed to strategic consideration of what kinds of diversity will add the most value over time, the report said.
Fortune 500 companies also stagnated in hiring Latinx and Asian directors in 2020, the report showed. But there’s nuance; the rate of Asian and Latinx female appointments rose slightly from 2019 to 2020, with "a sharp rise" for Black female directors.
Previously, Heidrick & Struggles projected that women would achieve Fortune 500 board appointment parity — or 50% of new appointments going to women — by 2022. The new projected timeframe is 2023, based on last year’s drop.
Addressing D&I-focused recruiting challenges, a Heidricks & Struggles spokesperson told HR Dive that the uptick in first-time directors, as documented by the study, was encouraging. "Diverse board-ready candidates are in the talent pool," they said, underscoring the benefit of "fresh and innovative thinking" that new kinds of leaders can bring to executive committees.
"We have advised our clients to shift their paradigms and broaden their aperture when they look to increase visible representation," the spokesperson said. "Go beyond titles and take a more comprehensive look at their leadership capabilities – their ability to mobilize, execute and transform with agility."
The executive search firm also said that Fortune 500 companies' next priorities will likely be hiring more Latinx and LGBTQ directors.