Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks have joined an initiative that seeks to increase the African American representation in U.S. companies’ boardrooms.
The Black Boardroom Initiative was started to increase the number of black corporate board members on S&P 500 boards to one in eight by 2028, law firm Perkins Coie announced Wednesday. Perkins Coie is spearheading the initiative with support from Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, RealNetworks, Zillow, F5 and Deloitte.
“Corporate leaders, shareholders, and employees are looking to CEOs and company boards to take meaningful actions against racism and to promote greater diversity within their leadership ranks,” Bill Malley, Perkins Coie’s managing partner, said in a statement. “It all starts with the board. The Black Boardroom Initiative aims to address this equity challenge by increasing racial and ethnic diversity on corporate boards.”
The plan seeks to reach one-in-eight representation since that would be the same percentage of black Americans in the nation as a whole, according to Perkins Coie. Nearly 40% of S&P 500 companies didn’t have a single black board member as of 2019, the firm said.
“There are many benefits to a public company having a more diverse corporate board, including diversity of opinion, stronger corporate governance, and the encouragement of diversity throughout an organization,” James Williams, Perkins Coie’s Seattle managing partner and a leader of the initiative, said in a statement.
The plan will initially focus on improving diversity of corporations in Washington state before expanding to other states in the coming years.
Minorities represented roughly 19% of Fortune 100 board members as of 2018, according to a Harvard Law School analysis. African Americans represented 11.1% of Fortune 100 board members, the analysis found, just under Perkins Coie’s goal of 12.5% by 2028.
While Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks are supporting the Black Boardroom Initiative, they appear to collectively have just two African American board members, according to their corporate governance webpages. The two black board members are Mellody Hobson, who chairs Starbucks’ board, and John Thompson, who chairs Microsoft’s board.
Indra Nooyi, an Indian American woman, is the Amazon board’s sole person of color.
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