While the economy took a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, companies that had diverse boards were better prepared to succeed against all odds. That is according to a new report by BoardReady, a Seattle-based non-profit focused on helping companies with board diversity.
"No matter whether you're looking at racial diversity, gender diversity, or diversity in age, companies with a broader range of perspectives at the board table did better," said the report's lead researcher, Rajalakshmi Subramanian. The report looked at S&P 500 companies that released full-year 2020 results as of May 31, 2021, analyzing their performance between 2018 and 2020.
For example, companies with more than 30 percent of board seats occupied by women delivered better year-over-year revenue in 11 of the top 15 S&P 500 sectors than their less-gender-diverse counterparts. Fifty-four percent of these gender-diverse companies delivered positive year-over-year revenue in 2020 compared to 45 percent of the companies with lower gender diversity. The best performing sectors for gender diversity were retail and computer software, whereas transport and energy were the poorest performers.
Additionally, multi-generational boards performed better last year than their less-diverse counterparts. Age diversity was calculated on the median age of directors, as well as the board's age span--or difference in age between the youngest and oldest members. Companies with a director age span of less than 15 years among their directors had a decline of 7.4 percent in year-over-year revenue growth, whereas companies with a director age span of more than 30 years saw a decline of only 0.1 percent.
Unfortunately, the report notes that the lack of racial diversity on S&P 500 boards made it difficult to do a statistically significant analysis of racial diversity on performance. Less than a third of companies in the S&P 500 have boards in which non-white board members occupy at least 20 percent of their seats.
However, the report still found that companies with 30 percent or more board seats occupied by non-white directors performed better--with a 1 percent increase in year-over-year growth, compared to a 5.6 percent year-over-year decline among companies with less than 20 percent of board seats occupied by non-white directors.