Think Going Public Makes Companies Prioritize Diversity? Think Again

Jul 20, 2017

Filing for an IPO usually spurs a company to buckle down and get its affairs in order—but not when it comes to the composition of its board.

A new analysis by advocacy group 2020 Women on Boards found that, of the 75 largest IPOs from 2014 to 2016, three-fourths of companies went public with one or no women on their boards. Nearly half of the companies (49%) went public with no female directors at all.

Among those that IPOed with one or zero female board members: cloud storage company Box (box), action camera seller GoPro (gpro), and web hosting company GoDaddy (gddy).

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Interestingly, some of the companies included in the analysis did improve the gender diversity of the boards within the first year or two of going public.

Of the 75 companies the group looked at in the analysis, the number of companies with no women on their boards dropped from 37 to 22 and the number of companies with a single woman on board rose from 19 to 27 during the time frame tracked by the researchers. The report also notes that two companies with all-male boards were no longer trading by May 2017.

Yet even outside of the newly-public, board diversity is a struggle. According to a study released last month by executive search firm Egon Zehnder, gender parity among incoming directors won't be reached until 2032.

Women's share of new board appointments at Fortune 500 companies declined two percentage points in 2016 to 27.3%. While some have pointed to lack of turnover as an explanation—the average U.S. board member is older and has a longer tenure than those of most other developed countries—that doesn't quite suffice; there were 421 vacant or newly created board seats at Fortune 500 companies last year (the most since 2009).

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