These Companies Have Achieved Gender Equality at Board Level

photo credit: Tommy Ton 

photo credit: Tommy Ton 

The UN describes parity as between 40% and 60% of each gender in the workforce. And some companies, like Tupperware are leading the charge with 59% female workers. 

But the role of women in senior leadership positions (defined as the top 6% of a company) is not nearly as high. In fact recent reports released by Catalyst have shown that despite a call for equality in top-tier positions, men held 80.1 percent of S&P 500 board seats, while women only held 19.9 percent. "Although some US companies are prioritizing board diversity, building it into the fabric of their key talent decision-making, they still have a long way to go before women's representation on their boards and throughout their executive ranks is near parity with men," the report said. 

The way things are going, some predict it may be 80 plus years before we achieve equality at all levels of the workplace. But these companies aren't waiting around. They have made the push for equality now. 

1. GENERAL MOTORS 

GM made news when they hired Mary Barra as their first female CEO in 2014. Barra started 36 years ago as a co-op student at GM and became chief executive in January 2014. But they didn't stop there. 

They have also been slowly and quietly working toward board parity. The automaker made quiet, though significant waves in June of this year when the shareholders elected Jane Mendillo, the chief executive officer of the company that manages Harvard University’s endowment, to its board of directors. Notably, they did not release any press release about the achievement, letting it stand on its own. The 12-member board is now evenly between men and women.

GM isn’t the first company to have an equally split board, but it's one of the biggest names to do so.  

2. TUPPERWARE BRANDS

There's a reason Tupperware has landed on Forbes' most admired companies list eight years in a row. Chairman & CEO, Rick Goings, has been dedicated to promoting gender equality in business since joining the brand almost 20 years ago and has been urging other companies to do the same. 

"Say it ain't so: it may be 80+ years before we achieve equality at all levels of the workplace."

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In 2015 the company signed on as one of the first companies participating in HeForShe, the UN Women’s program in support of gender parity. Tupperware made a three-year, $500,000 commitment to the program. 

In January of this year Tupperware added Meg Crofton to the company’s board of directors, joining 12 other board members, including Goings. Five out the 12 seats are currently held by women. 

3. MICHAEL KORS HOLDINGS LTD. 

There may be more lauded male designers than women, but this is still fashion you can feel good about. The parent company of Michael Kors has 50% parity on its board of directors. Of the eight seats four are occupied by women.  

4. SELECT COMFORT

Leave it to a sleep solutions company to help up rest a little easier that board parity can be a reality. Achieved in March of this year, Select Comfort added two new female board members. 

Barbara R. Matas and Vicki A. OMeara now serve the board, effective as of April 25th, making for an even 50/50 split between male and female members.   

5. VOYA FINANCIAL 

Four out of 10 seats on Voya's board are occupied by women. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Voya Financial informally took this approach after the provider of retirement, life insurance and investment services went public in spring 2013 with a nine-man board. CEO Rodney O. Martin Jr. and another director soon interviewed male and female prospects."

Of the five open board seats, women took four of the. Mr. Martin told WSJ that he hopes the split will be 50/50 soon. "Our board should look a lot like our customer base,” he explained. “More women than men control family financial decisions.’’

6. GOLD STANDARD

Two S&P 500 companies, student loan company Navient and utility company American Water Works Company, have more women than men on their boards. Navient added five female directors in 2014 and now has six women on its 11-member board.

HONORABLE MENTION: BEST BUY 

Men might be known to gather around the TV for game days *congrats Cubs* but women fill up the majority of leadership positions at Best Buy. The Richfield-based company, and nation's largest electronics retailer reached a turning point April, 2016 when Trish Walker was hired to become president of services (which, includes the Geek Squad). Walker's hiring made for 6 out of 10 executives who report to Hubert Joly. 

Best Buy's board is not far behind. It is a focus and priority for the company, which added two new female board members this year. Currently four of the 11 seats are held by women. 

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