Boardrooms need more diversity

(Philadelphia Inquirer) One hundred years ago, the Negro Business Directory was published. It identified black-owned businesses and listed the sectors that employed sizable numbers of black workers in Pennsylvania.

In Philadelphia, the directory identified five black-owned insurance companies and an astounding 20 newspapers. It reported that more than 3,000 blacks were employed in “manufacturing and mechanical pursuits,” and nearly 4,000 in “trade and transportation.” It listed 30 black physicians, 16 lawyers, 11 dentists, and two druggists. The directory didn’t survey corporate boards of directors, but it likely would have found no African Americans on them.

In the intervening 100 years, we’ve certainly made some strides, but not as many as you might think.

Today, the Urban League of Philadelphia and KPMG’s Philadelphia office are releasing a survey of African American participation on the boards of public companies in our region, “Opportunity at the Top: Leadership and Diversity of Corporate Boards.” The results are sobering.

While African Americans make up 44 percent of the population of Philadelphia and 20 percent of the region, they account for just 4 percent of the 678 directors of companies that responded to the survey. Twenty-six percent of the responding companies said they have one African American board member; less than 2 percent have more than one.

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