The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The lone all-male board in the S&P 500 just added a woman to its ranks

Every S&P 500 company now has a woman on its board. (iStock)

The all-male board among America’s largest public companies has become an extinct species — at least for now.

Copart said Tuesday that Diane Morefield, an executive with the real estate investment trust CyrusOne, joined the board effective July 20, along with former eBay executive Stephen Fisher. The online vehicle auction company, based in Dallas, had been the final firm in the S&P 500 that did not have a single woman on its board — at the same time the percentage of female directors has been climbing, now reaching nearly 27 percent of all directors.

Morefield’s effective date came three days after The Washington Post published an analysis of the growth of female directors on America’s largest boards and noted Copart’s lone status. Copart had told The Post that it intended to fill a board vacancy with a “highly qualified, accomplished woman this year” and said it “would benefit from greater diversity that more accurately reflects that of our various stakeholders."

Copart did not immediately return an email with a query about the announcement’s timing.

After years of ‘glacial’ change, women now hold more than 1 in 4 corporate board seats

The all-male board has been dwindling for some time. A decade ago, in 2009, there were 56 companies in the S&P 500 with all-male boards, according to ISS Analytics, the data arm of the proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services. That number fell to 20 in 2014 and then to just two last year as investor, advocate and public scrutiny has increasingly focused on the gender diversity on boards.

Major institutional investors, including BlackRock and State Street, have set expectations for gender diversity, with State Street saying it plans to vote against the entire nominating committee if the board remains all male.

California also passed legislation last year that will require public companies with their primary offices in the state to eventually have between one and three female directors or face fines. A similar idea has been proposed in New Jersey.

Among smaller public companies, however, the all-male board is still alive and well. In the Russell 3000, an index that includes the 3000 largest U.S. public companies and reflects the broad-based market, there were still 329 companies without a female director as of July 15, according to ISS Analytics. The vast majority of those boards — 271 of them — were among the smaller companies in the Russell 3000 that fall outside the S&P 1500.

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