Just askin' | Corporate board diversity

Ben Zigterman, The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Ill.
·3 min read

Mar. 7—How diverse are corporate boards in Illinois?

Not particularly diverse.

Among 74 public corporations in Illinois, about 21 percent of board members are women, and about 15 percent are non-White, below the 40 percent of the population in Illinois that is non-White, according to a new report.

"Although a handful of firms are leading the way in terms of board diversity, there is still wide variation as many firms maintain unrepresentative boards," wrote Richard Benton and Eunmi Mun, from the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Under a new state law approved in 2019, public corporations were required to report board diversity to the state, and the UI will release a report each March analyzing the data.

"Women's board representation, despite gains, still falls short of their overall representation in the workforce," Benton and Mun wrote. "Racial and ethnic representation is more nuanced, with Black and Hispanic or Latino directors being particularly underrepresented."

The corporations were also required to describe how their boards are chosen and how they promote board diversity.

Benton and Mun found that corporations without board-specific diversity and inclusion policies tended to have less diverse boards.

And they found that many businesses with more board diversity tended to have specific processes to encourage that.

"For example, Morningstar, Inc. requires one female or non-white interviewer on every panel and strives for a 50/50 gender split on interview teams when hiring executive officers," Benton and Mun wrote.

Champaign-based First Busey Corp. reported one female and one non-White board member out of 11 total.

First Busey did not report specific policies to encourage board diversity.

"While the Company does not have a separate diversity policy, the (Nominating and Corporate Governance) Committee does consider the diversity of directors and nominees in terms of perspectives, background, knowledge, experience, skills, expertise, and other demographics which may contribute to the Company's board of directors," Busey Bank CEO Robin Elliott wrote.

He also said the committee "focuses on those who present varied, complementary backgrounds that emphasize both business experience and community standing."

Additionally, First Busey Corp. Chief of Staff Amy Randolph said the separate boards of First Busey and Busey Bank have appointed three women and three people of color since 2019.

"As a result of various efforts put in place over the last several years, racial and ethnic diversity amongst Busey associates has nearly doubled and women in senior management exceeds the national average by more than 15 percent," she said in a statement. "With these recent advancements in attracting and retaining diverse leaders and team members, Busey remains committed to continuous progress towards improving gender, racial and ethnic representation."

Randolph also said Busey is "committed to diversity and inclusion" throughout its business and aims to be "reflective of the diverse communities it proudly serves."

"The organization has instituted countless initiatives over the last decade—from training and development efforts to engagement, recognition and wellness initiatives that support associates from all backgrounds—no matter where they are in their careers," she said. "Recognizing the richness diversity brings to its workplace, Busey strives to create and sustain a culture of inclusion and belonging through ongoing initiatives aimed at attracting, developing, supporting and retaining top talent."

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