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Can a new database improve the dismal outlook for women on private company boards?

Earlier this year, I wrote about the challenges women face gaining seats on the board of public companies.

According to a Government Accountability Office report, 16 percent of board seats on companies in the S&P 1500 were held by women in 2014. That was a near doubling from 1997 when the figure was 8 percent.

Another study caught my eye today in Huffington Post

The picture is even worse for privately held tech companies, but there are signs of a possible solution.

According to a new study by Boardlist, only 7 percent of board seats at privately held tech companies are held by women. The Boardlist is an organization that tries to help in the recruiting of women to board seats. Ten percent of the seats are held by women on so-called unicorn startups, which are privately held tech companies valued at $1 billion or more.

For its study, Boardlist looked at 169 unicorn companies – think of companies such as Uber, Pinterest and Dropbox – and 200 private companies.

I’m not surprised at how dismal the numbers, but what I want to call some attention to is Boardlist and its mission.

The venture was founded by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy. She is the CEO of a video shopping platform called Joyus and has worked at Google and Amazon. She launched Boardlist a year ago as a searchable database of qualified female board candidates. Companies, for a fee, can use the database when searching for directors.

There are 1,200 women in the database so far, and 120 searches have been done via Boardlist in the past year with 34 placements.

As Executive Editor Emily Peck writes on Huffington Post, Boardlist is a “direct clear response to a common complaint you hear from men in the tech industry: That there simply aren’t enough qualified women out there to fill board positions.”

I think the focus on privately held companies is a smart one. Cassidy said that private companies are the future of the tech industry, and they should get gender diversity right. It’ll only get harder to fix as they get larger and become public companies.

Here is a link to the Boardlist in case you are looking for board members or want to nominate someone to be included in the database.

Because of its founder and some of the companies involved, it looks like a very Silicon Valley focused venture, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for government contractors to look or to nominate women board members. In fact, it could be a great opportunity for a company looking to channel some Silicon Valley pizzazz into their organization.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 21, 2016 at 8:28 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Jul 22, 2016 Evan Scott DC

The only way to help attract diversity into the board room is for the CEO to retain an executive search firm to handle a diversity search.Based on this it is obvious where the problem resides.

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