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Chief Executive Officer & Board of Directors

Board Monitor 2017: Is diversity at an impasse?

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Click the above image for an interactive look at the findings, or click the download button for the full report.


In 2016, Fortune 500 companies filled 421 vacant or newly created board seats with non-executive directors. That represents a new high as recorded by the Board Monitor, Heidrick & Struggles’ annual study of board composition, experience, turnover, and diversity.

In addition to the increase in appointments, our analysis surfaced the following key findings:

  • The share of seats that went to women in 2016 fell by two percentage points, to 27.8%, ending a seven-year run of year-on-year gains. This represents a drop to a level predating that of 2014.
  • In the past four years, the aggregate proportion of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Asian-American appointments averaged 20.1%.
  • In 2016, the percentage of Hispanic appointees, though still low compared with the overall US Hispanic population, reached the highest level recorded. Consumer companies led the way—almost 60% of Hispanic appointees went to boards in the consumer sector.
  • Almost 41% of Asian and Asian-American appointees went to technology boards.
  • About 33% of African-American appointees went to boards in the industrial sector.
  • Current and former CEOs and CFOs together accounted for almost 66% of director appointments in 2016—down from the eight-year high of 73% in 2015.
  • Of the 421 board appointees in 2016, some 315, or almost 75%, had previous board experience.

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