Women also were much more likely than men to understand the impact of having a diverse board.

By Moses Frenck

DiversityInk, October 13, 2015 — Women overwhelmingly consider gender and racial diversity as essential to the success of corporate boards, yet only about one-third of men feel that way, according to a report released last week.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, ranked number three on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, received responses from 783 public company directors to its 2015 Annual Corporate Directors Survey. The report found that 63 percent of female directors described gender diversity as a “very important” attribute for a board, compared to only 35 percent of male directors. Similarly, 46 percent of female directors describe racial diversity as “very important,” compared to only 27 percent of their male counterparts.

Of the directors who responded to the survey, 74 percent serve on the boards of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Participants were 86 percent male and 14 percent female.

Women represent 16.9 percent of boards among Fortune 500 companies, compared to 25.1 percent in the DiversityInc Top 50 and 27.6 percent in the Top 10.

Blacks, Latinos and Asians make up a smaller percentage of corporate boards, totaling 7.4 percent, 3.3 percent and 2.6 percent respectively at Fortune 500 companies. At DiversityInc Top 50 companies, however, Blacks represent 9.7 percent, Latinos 6.5 percent and Asians 6.5 percent.

While 95 percent of directors who responded to the survey view diversity as at least a “somewhat” important attribute, more than 70 percent “somewhat” believe there are impediments to increasing board diversity. The top obstacle cited was the opinion that there is a limited pool of diverse director candidates. According to the survey, 46 percent of female directors said there were enough diverse candidates to choose from, while just 18 percent of men felt there were enough candidates.

Women also were much more likely than men to understand the impact of having a diverse board. Women were twice as likely to “very much” believe diversity leads to enhanced board effectiveness, and 74 percent of female directors “very much” agreed that board diversity leads to enhanced company performance. Only 31 percent of males agreed.

Meanwhile, newer directors place a much higher value on board diversity than long-serving directors, the survey found, noting that 62 percent of people who had spent less than a year on a board said they “very much” agreed that diversity was crucial. Just 39 percent of people who had the job for more than 10 years felt as strongly.