Arkansas' Public Firms Lack Director Diversity

by Mark Hengel  on Monday, Jul. 28, 2008 12:00 am  

Mary Good, dean of the Donaghey College of Information Science & Systems Engineering at UALR, serves on Acxiom Corp.'s board of directors.

(To see the lists of minorities and woman who serve on Arkansas public boards as well as a pie chart depiction of the numbers, click here. To see the list of Arkansas public companies lacking women or minorities on their boards, click here.)

Arkansas' 20 public companies have a total of 188 members on their boards of directors currently. Of those seats, only 16 are held by women and 13 by minorities, an analysis by Arkansas Business shows.

Women make up 51 percent of Arkansas' population, according to 2006 U.S. Census estimates, yet they comprise only 8.5 percent of the board members of the state's public companies.

And while blacks, Hispanics and Asians make up 21 percent of the state's population, Census estimates show, they account for only 6.9 percent of board members.

In Arkansas, men account for 91.4 percent of seats on boards of directors of public companies, and white men account for 85.1 percent.

Women and minorities are gaining more seats on public company boards across the nation, however, with boards of the nation's top companies making the greatest strides.

When told that the percentage of women and minorities serving on the boards of public companies in Arkansas did not match the state's demographics, Mary Good, who serves on Acxiom Corp.'s board, said, "I'm not too surprised."

Good is dean of the Donaghey College of Information Science & Systems Engineering at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and serves on two boards, one public and one private. She serves on Acxiom's board as well as Delta Trust & Bank's board. On both boards, she is one of two women, she said. Good, however, said the situation has greatly improved since she began serving on boards in the 1970s.

"I have served on several boards in my career, and we are in much better shape today than we were 15 years ago," she said. "Many of the early boards I was on, I was the only woman."

Compensation for service on the board of a public company varies widely, but it can be lucrative. For example, non-employee members of Acxiom Corp.'s board received between $50,000 and $325,000 for fiscal 2008, according to the company's proxy on file with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Non-employee members of the Bank of the Ozarks board, however, received between $10,250 and $26,250 for 2007, according to SEC documents.

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