It’s not a new issue. For a long time, women and minorities have been underrepresented in executive roles. In 2016, the Alliance for Board Diversity found that women and minorities made up 31 percent of board seats for Fortune 500 companies – the rest being made up of white men. While the number of female and minority corporate executives and board members is the highest it’s ever been, the groups are still highly underrepresented, and the rate of progress has been slower than expected.
In an attempt to fix this problem, major companies like Facebook are taking steps to make their boards more inclusive. Facebook even went a step further to ensure that women and minorities would be represented in the law firm that represents the company in legal issues. The company is requiring that at least 33 percent of the law firm teams be made up of women and ethnic minorities.
Facebook is doing more than just number requirements. In a new policy, Facebook also said that when a law firm represents their company, they must show that they “actively identify and create clear and measurable leadership opportunities for women and minorities.”
Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch said, “Firms typically do what their clients want. And we want to see them win our cases and create opportunities for women and people of color. We think the firms are ready — our articulation gives not just permission but a mandate.”
In the past, Facebook has received criticism for its lack of women and ethnic minorities in leadership roles at the company. Last year, only 3 percent of its senior leadership roles were held by blacks and Hispanics while women made up an additional 27 percent.
An article from the New York Times explained why progress in boardrooms moves slowly. “Only a small number of board seats turn over in any given year – about 350 around the country – which makes it difficult to quickly increase the numbers of women and minorities. The total number of Fortune 500 board seats last year was 5,440, down slightly from 5,463 in 2010.”
Even if changes in boardrooms may take some time, Facebook’s step to increase diversity in their legal team will help the company immensely. Other companies are following suit to improve diversity in their outside lawyers as well. MetLife and HP both adopted new policies, demanding diversity at the firms that they use.
Imagine the possibilities when welcoming more women and minorities to represent companies on both their boards and in the courtroom. Having women and minorities on boards to offer alternative points of view will only make companies better.
“Diverse teams I’ve seen may not make quicker decisions but they tend to make more effective decisions,” said Former CEO of Citigroup, Sallie Krawcheck. “They’re not all looking at the same thing in the same way.”
Including women and minorities will help to strengthen companies by offering more diverse problem solving capabilities and by better representing all of their constituents.
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