Fortune’s Modern Board 25 underscores the gender diversity payoff

April 19, 2022, 1:05 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women celebrated a half-century of racing in the Boston Marathon, Marine Le Pen continues her anti-hijab campaign promises in France, and gender diversity pays off for boards of directors. Have a terrific Tuesday.

– Thoroughly modern. Fortune is debuting a new list today: the Modern Board 25, a ranking of S&P 500 boards that exhibit the hallmarks of innovation.

Fortune considered gender, racial, and age diversity, among other factors, to determine which boards deserved recognition. (Data partner Diligent did not measure LGBTQ+ board diversity, which is not part of required reporting for companies.) As companies seek to drive change on talent management, sustainability, digital transformation, and a host of social issues, diversified leadership will become an ever-pressing requirement.

My colleague and Fortune writer Aman Kidwai says as much: “In a rapidly changing business climate, innovation at the board level—and the high performance that comes with it—can be predicted based on who is in the room.”

The ranking’s methodology speaks to the “why” of board diversity: Put another way, why have shareholders and regulators spent years advocating for increased board diversity? Sure, one reason is to better represent the customers and stakeholders they serve. But diverse boards often see higher returns, and have better director performance, and improved oversight mechanisms—all of which are critical for corporate governance.

No. 1 on the inaugural list is Microsoft, whose board includes former Gap Inc. CFO Teri List, former worldwide chairman for Johnson & Johnson Sandra Peterson, former U.S. secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker, GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley, and former Cisco chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior. That board lineup is surely useful as Microsoft navigates its $68 billion acquisition of the troubled Activision Blizzard, which has been plagued by sexual harassment allegations.

From left: Sandra Peterson, Padma Warrior, Penny Pritzker and Emma Walmsley.
Members of Microsoft’s board, from left, Sandra Peterson, Padmasree Warrior, Penny Pritzker and Emma Walmsley.
Courtesy of Microsoft (4)

Other companies with top gender equality board scores include Citigroup, led by CEO Jane Fraser, and whose board has reached gender parity; the real estate investment trust Healthpeak Properties (another 50/50 split); and mining business Newmont, which achieved gender parity for non-executive directors in 2020 with the appointment of former American Water Works CEO Susan Story. Anthem, Best Buy, and NortonLifeLock also earned high marks on the gender diversity front.

The push for more women on boards has arguably been one of the most successful diversity reforms in corporate America. Although women run a mere 8% of Fortune 500 companies, their presence on corporate boards has shot up thanks to legislative action like California’s gender diversity quota and shareholder pressure. Women held 31% of all S&P 500 board seats at the end of 2021, up from 22% in 2017.

As the Modern Board 25 shows, companies that prioritize board diversity are also seeing greater innovation and are better able to adapt to disruptive change. See the full list here.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Nimah Quadri. Subscribe here.


- Campaign promise. Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, who was recently accused of embezzlement by the EU's anti-fraud organization, has pledged to ban the hijab in public life if she's elected in this month's runoff election. Le Pen's stance is just the latest example of opposition to women wearing religious head scarves in France. Still, women like this group of Muslim soccer players are advocating for their right to wear head coverings. New York Times

-Run for something. Yesterday's Boston Marathon marked the 50th anniversary of women participating in the race. For the marathon's first 76 years, women were not allowed to run. Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir won this year's event, completing her run in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 1 second—four seconds faster than second-place finisher Ababel Yeshaneh. Guardian

- Network news. CBS shareholders have reportedly agreed to a $14.7 million settlement with the network in a lawsuit over its handling of the sexual misconduct claims against former CEO Les Moonves. The shareholders alleged that "numerous materially false and misleading statements" artificially inflated—and then crashed—the value of the company's stock. CBS declined to comment. Variety

- November deadline. In a new op-ed, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pleads with Democrats to take action if they want to hold onto power in the 2022 midterm elections. The senator argues that Democrats must deliver on more campaign promises made to working Americans during the 2020 race or face major losses in November. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Notarize promoted SVP of customer success Kim Rose to chief customer officer. 


- Food for thought. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet global ministers to address the international food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Due to supply-chain pressures, food prices are up 34% from last year—the highest recorded levels by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. IMF leader Kristalina Georgieva will also meet with Yellen. CNBC

- On the itinerary. Vice President Kamala Harris has been jetting to destinations that are not typically frequented by presidential administrations. The VP is focusing on underserved communities, small towns, and rural areas, with recent stops in the Deep South. Politico 

- Pandemic activities. Forty-two percent of women who are investing in the stock market started doing so during the pandemic, according to a new survey by social investing app eToro. The company speculates that financial vulnerability, job losses, pandemic uncertainties, and enormous caregiving responsibilities have inspired many women to take the plunge. CNBC

- Awards speculation. The success of Abbott Elementary has breathed new life into the network sitcom. Quinta Brunson serves as creator, writer, producer, and star of the show, which means she could be poised to break some Emmy records. If nominated in the outstanding comedy series, lead actress in a comedy, and outstanding writing for a comedy series categories, she would be the first Black woman to earn nods in all three. Variety


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Fierce attachments: What Lena Dunham is still learning about friendship 10 years after Girls Vogue 

Yes, you can be more than your job title Wall Street Journal


"I think people really love black-and-white thinking. I’m into gray; I couldn’t have a better name."

-Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey, whose new memoir is Out of the Corner

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