The appointment of Susan L. Wagner, a senior executive of massive investment firm BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK), to Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) board of directors is a reminder of how few woman sit on corporate boards. While there has been a great deal of coverage of how few female employees some large tech companies have, and how few female chief executives American public corporations have, the focus on governance has been scant.
The primary excuse for the low level of female board membership is that it is only recently that woman have broken the glass ceiling of corporate senior management. The argument goes that women, therefore, have not had the level of experience and expertise, until recently, that are essential to develop the skills to be leaders in corporate governance. By the way, since Apple has only one woman among its 10 senior executives, the company is not likely to be a source of female members for other corporate boards any time soon. However, Apple can only claim two of its eight board members are women.
If the tech industry is at the forefront of American business growth and innovation, it would stand to reason female board membership at its leading firms would be high. It is fine that older manufacturers and retail companies have been slower to change. They have maintained the ancient customs that match the numbers of years they have been in business, along with their tribal cultures, as if that were any excuse.
A brief tour of the largest tech companies shows that Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has three women board members out of 11. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ FB) has two out of eight (one of whom is Sheryl Sandberg, the COO). Oracle Corp. (NYSE: ORCL) has two of 11 (one of whom is a CFO Safra A. Catz). Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has one of eight.
Wagner’s appointment to Google’s board improves the female-to-male board membership ratio among large public companies, but only by a tiny amount.