Having women on corporate boards doesn’t make them diverse.
It’s just not enough.
Corporate boards can’t really claim gender diversity — that is, gender diversity that works — until they have three women. And there are very few boards out there that meet that standard.
The Huffington Post’s Emily Peck has a new analysis out today, which shows that just over 20% of corporations in the Nasdaq 100 meet the three-woman standard.
Peck was prompted to do the analysis after former Quiksilver board member Liz Dolan wrote about her negative experiences as the token woman on that company’s board in Fortune Magazine earlier in June.
“What I learned is that even when a woman earns a seat at the table, the men can put you in a soundproof booth,” Dolan writes.
Why is three women the standard? Research shows that three is the minimum threshold for women to be seen as directors doing their jobs, rather than just token women who are not to be taken seriously.
Here’s an excerpt from the Harvard Business Review, back in 2006:
A clear shift occurs when boards have three or more women. At that critical mass, our research shows, women tend to be regarded by other board members not as “female directors” but simply as directors, and they don’t report being isolated or ignored. Three women or more can also change the dynamic on an average-size board. As one woman director said, “The competition to get your voice heard is over. It’s a supportive dynamic — less combative, more collaborative. You can see the guys decompress from their normal very aggressive style.”
Commitment to diversity doesn’t stop at one hire. The real takeaway from this HBR piece is that it’s really hard for women to contribute much unless their presence is normalized. And the presence of a woman will never be normalized if she is the only one (or even one of a pair) in a room full of (generally white) men.