The number of S&P 500 board positions held by Black women has jumped by more than 25% since last year, which comes on the heels of a 16% increase in 2020. This illustrates that the increase has doubled for Black women as compared to women in other groups. Still, the number of Black women in board positions is dismal. Only 4% of S&P 500 board seats are filled by Black women.
Asahi Pompey and Erin Teague are keenly aware of this. They recently joined Essence’s chief of staff Barkue Tubman-Zawolo for a discussion at the Essence Festival of Culture about the importance of amplifying diversity in boardrooms.
As the Global Head of Corporate Engagement and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, Pompey is responsible for leading programming that creates meaningful pathways for the institution to impact communities. A part of her mission is connecting with community partners to effect real change.
“Having a seat on corporate boards is incredibly important,” Pompey said. She serves on the Board of Managers for Swarthmore College, as well as the advisory Board of Forbes’ Next 1,000. “At Goldman, we’re all about making generational change and that starts from the top.”
Teague, Google’s Director and Global Head of Sports, Film and TV Product Management, said now is the time for Black women to get their foot in the door of important boardrooms.
“Most companies are now required to have at least one diverse member on their board or they won’t get underwritten,” she said. “As Black women, we are in a really fortuitous position to create generational wealth through powerful partnerships, that often start by being appointed to boards. That ultimately benefits everyone all around.”
She’s on to something.
For example, recent research from Harvard said when Fortune-500 companies were ranked by the number of women directors on their boards, those in the highest quartile in 2009 reported a 42 percent greater return on sales and a 53 percent higher return on equity than the rest.
She suggested that once it’s been decided that board appointments are a goal, it would be beneficial to prepare.
“Like most Black women, when I was offered the opportunity to interview for a board, I overprepared. I took a class that showed me how to update my LinkedIn profile, create a work history document, something that’s different from a resume, and even prepare for the board interview,” Teague said.
Pompey also shared a few tips for navigating the board appointment process. The most important piece of advice? Communication.
“Talk to those that are in a position to do help you–you won’t regret it.”