A Sector Breakdown of Board Diversity at S&P 500 Companies — ESG Insight

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The S&P 500 futures declined 0.1%, while Nasdaq futures traded flat in early trade on Monday. (AP)


Data from WSJ Pro Research found measurable differences in diversity disclosure metrics between different sectors.

Key Takeaways

Among S&P 500 companies that fully disclosed the race & ethnicity breakdown of their boards, the average number of non-white board members rose to 2.4 in 2022 from 2.2 in 2021. That number ranged from 3.2 in the financial sector to 1.9 in the renewable-energy sector.Companies in the technology and communications sector showed the largest increase in the number of non-white directors. The sector had the largest number of companies that fully disclose the race and ethnicity makeup of their boards. It also accounted for close to a third of all the firms that disclose the LGBTQ status of board members.The transportation sector showed the largest increase in chair seats occupied by women, while the services sector had the highest average LGBTQ representation at the board level.

Tech Increases Board Diversity the Most

The surge in the overall number of S&P 500 companies reporting race and ethnicity data can obscure emerging trends at the sector level, according to data compiled by the WSJ Pro Research team. This analysis is part of a series of WSJ Pro Research reports derived from S&P 500 companies’ proxy statements as well as sustainability, diversity & inclusion, and corporate social responsibility reports. Companies are categorized into one of 11 sectors, based on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board framework.

Data showed that while the average number of non-white directors on S&P 500 boards rose to 2.4 in 2022 from 2.2 in 2021, that number ranged between a high of 3.2 for the financial sector and a low of 1.9 for the renewable-resources and alternative-energy sector. The average S&P 500 board has 11 directors.

The technology and communications sector incorporated the most new ethnically diverse directors, adding, on average, 0.62 more non-white directors since 2021. While no sectors registered a decline, the transportation and consumer-goods sectors maintained the number of non-white board members relatively unchanged in 2022 (adding 0.01 and 0.04 non-white directors on average, respectively).

Looking at the percentage of companies that disclosed the detailed racial and ethnic composition of their boards—as classified by the WSJ Pro Research team using categories defined by the U.S. Census Bureau—the technology and communications sector again stands out. Firms in this sector accounted for one-fifth of all the S&P 500 companies that fully disclosed the race and ethnicity makeup of their boards. In contrast, the food-and-beverages and extractives sectors both lagged behind, accounting only for 3% and 4% of all firms, respectively.

In terms of the share of companies within a given sector that fully disclosed the race and ethnicity of their board members, 51% of tech and communications firms reported detailed information. That is surpassed only by the consumer-goods sector, where 56% of firms fully disclosed this information. The two sectors have also shown the most significant increase in the metric: Data shows a 14-fold increase for the consumer-goods sector and a 10-fold increase for the tech-and-communications sector between 2020 and 2022.

Extractives Show Jump in Women Directors

The representation of women on S&P 500 boards rose for the second year running in 2022, hitting 32% of directors from 30% in 2021 and 27% in 2020.

In 2022, companies in the extractives-and-minerals-processing sector added the highest number of women directors—0.48 more women, on average. This is the second year running that the sector showed the highest increase, adding 0.62 women the year prior. In contrast, companies in the services sector—which includes industries such as advertising and marketing, hotels and lodging, and media and entertainment—showed the smallest increase in the number of women directors over the three years of available data, 0.32 more women since 2020.

Transportation Leads on Women Chairs, Renewables and Healthcare Lag Behind

The transportation sector leads in both the proportion of firms with board chair seats occupied by women (29%) and the most substantial increase since 2020: Women’s representation in chair positions in this sector has more than tripled over the time period. Meanwhile, renewable-resources and alternative-energy companies have had no women chairs reported among the four firms in the S&P 500 since 2020.

The healthcare sector comes in just above this low-water mark, with 1.6% representation of women in chair seats, accounting for just one out of the 62 companies in the sector. Notably, it is the only sector among the 11 analyzed to have recorded a decline in the proportion of chair seats occupied by women since 2020.

Tech Leads in LGBTQ Disclosures

In total, 100 S&P 500 companies disclosed the number of directors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, 29 of which belong to the technology-and-communications sector. The food-and-beverages and extractives sectors had the lowest number of companies disclosing LGBTQ directors, at four and five respectively.

For the 100 companies that disclosed the data, 3% of directors overall identified as LGBTQ. The services sector had the highest representation at 5%, while several other sectors reported no LGBTQ board members.

This was the first time the WSJ Pro Research team analyzed publicly available disclosure by S&P 500 companies on directors who identify as LGBTQ, preventing the team from conducting an analysis of sectoral changes over time.

Write to Stephen Vogado at

ESG Insights are written by WSJ Pro Research analysts, whose commentary is independent of the news coverage by reporters at the Journal.

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