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Gender Diversity on Company Boards Accelerates in Arkansas

5 min read

Ten years ago, Arkansas had 20 publicly traded companies and only 16 of their combined 188 directors were women. Eleven of the companies had no women directors at all.

Three years ago, that 8.5 percent gender diversity had improved to 12.3 percent — 21 women out of 171 directors. But even then, eight of the 19 public companies on the state’s roster had all-male boards.

Since November 2014, the last time Arkansas Business measured the estrogen fueling the state’s publicly traded companies, the number of women directors has grown by more than 40 percent, and the number of all-male boards has been cut in half. There are now 30 women among 198 directors at 19 companies.

At 15.2 percent, female representation on Arkansas corporate boards still lags slightly behind the national trend. Among Russell 3000 companies, women filled 16.2 percent of director seats as of Sept. 30, according to Equilar, a board consulting firm in Redwood City, California.

But, all other things being equal, the pending acquisitions of two publicly traded companies will boost Arkansas’ figure to 16 percent. Bear State Financial Inc. of Little Rock, with no women on its 12-member board, is being acquired by privately held Arvest Bank of Fayetteville. And Deltic Timber Corp., with two women among 11 directors, is merging with Potlatch Corp. of Spokane, Washington.

Diversity — gender and race — on corporate boards may have at one point been tokenism or mere public relations. In fact, the 2020 Women on Boards campaign, a Boston organization that developed a “Gender Diversity Index” in 2011, refers to companies that have only one female member as “token” companies. And accounting giant PwC reported last fall that only 41 percent of 900 directors surveyed thought gender diversity on their boards was very important. (Eleven percent said it wasn’t important at all.)

Whether directors themselves are enthusiastic, pressure from powerful investors like BlackRock has pushed the trend line toward diversity and, in a very few cases, gender parity.

Among the Fortune 1000 companies (actually 980 companies) that 2020WOB tracks, the number of all-male boards has dropped from 18 percent to 7 percent between 2011 and 2017, and “token” (one-woman) boards have dropped from 33 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile, the number of boards that have met the campaign’s 20 percent female goal has grown from 29 percent to 55 percent.

In addition to Bear State, America’s Car-Mart Inc. of Springdale, Inuvo Inc. of Little Rock and P.A.M. Transport Inc. of Tontitown have no women in their boards. Five more have only one, including Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, which made Little Rock accountant Karen Garrett its first female board member in 2017.

Big Companies More Diverse
Larger companies are more likely to have more diverse boards. While the Russell 3000 index companies have, on average, 16.2 percent of directors who are female, the Fortune 1000 are at 19.8 percent. Among Fortune 500 companies, 22 percent of directors are women, and the 100 largest companies are at 24 percent.

That trend doesn’t quite hold true in Arkansas: 19 percent of the directors of our state’s six Fortune 500 companies are women.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, the No. 1 company on the Fortune list, has two women among its 11 board members, while Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale has three of 11 and Windstream Holdings Inc. of Little Rock has three of 12 — fully 25 percent.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell has two women on its 10-member board, and Murphy USA Inc. of El Dorado has two women out of 12.

Meanwhile, Dillard’s Inc. of Little Rock has only one woman director among 12. She is Drue Dillard Matheny, daughter of the founder and sister of the CEO of a company in which family-owned shares elect eight of the directors.

Matheny is one of the longest-serving women directors in the state, having been on the Dillard’s board since 1994. Barbara A. Tyson, sister-in-law of the late Chairman and CEO Don Tyson, has been a member of the Tyson Foods board since 1988.

Linda Gleason, wife of CEO George Gleason, has served as a director of Bank of the Ozarks since 1987. That board has four women members, more than any other publicly traded company in the state. Elizabeth W. Keller, a member of the founding family of Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado, joined that company’s board in 2016, part of the rush of women directors elected over the past three years. Of the 30 current women directors, five were elected in 2015, seven in 2016 and seven in 2017.

Women Directors of Arkansas-based Public Companies

Debora B. Tomlin
Director since 2016
Chief Marketing & Customer Officer, CSAA Insurance Group

Kathleen McElligott
Director since 2015
EVP, Chief Information & Technology Officer,
McKesson Corp.

Judy R. McReynolds
Director since 2010
CEO, ArcBest Corp.

Janice E. Stipp
Director since 2012
CFO, Rogers Corp.

Paula Cholmondeley
Director since 2016
Founder & CEO,
The Sorrel Group

Kathleen Franklin
Director since 2017
Global Ethics & Compliance Strategy Leader, Sony Group

Catherine B. Freedberg
Director since 2013
Former Director, First
National Bank of Shelby, N.C.

Linda Gleason
Director since 1987
Former Deputy CEO & Assistant Secretary, Bank of the Ozarks

Deborah M. Cannon
Director since 2017
Former President & CEO,
Houston Zoo Inc.

Lenore M. Sullivan
Director since 2015
Retired Managing Director, Texas Women Ventures Capital Management

Announced acquisition by Potlatch Corp. of Spokane, Washington, is pending

Drue Dillard Matheny
Director since 1994
EVP, Dillard’s Inc.

Karen Garrett
Director since 2017
Managing Partner,
Hudson Cisne & Co. LLP

Francesca Maher Edwardson
Director since 2011
Retired CEO, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

Sharilyn S. Gasaway
Director since 2009
Former CFO & EVP,
Alltel Corp.

Elizabeth W. Keller
Director since 2016
President, Inglewood Plantation LLC

Laura A. Sugg
Director since 2015
Retired Senior Executive,

Diane N. Landen
Director since 2013
Owner & President,
Vantage Communications Inc.

Susan S. Lanigan
Director since 2017
EVP & General Counsel,
Chico’s FAS Inc.

Malynda K. “Mindy” West
Director since 2017
EVP, CFO & Treasurer,
Murphy USA Inc.

Mikel A. Durham
Director since 2015
CEO, American Seafoods Group

Cheryl S. Miller
Director since 2016
CFO & EVP, AutoNation Inc.

Barbara A. Tyson
Director since 1988
Consultant, Former VP for Long-Term Strategy, Tyson Foods Inc.

Jennifer Banner
Director since 2015
CEO, Schaad Cos. LLC

Susan Chambers
Director since 2016
Retired EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Barbara J. Faulkenberry
Director since 2016
Retired Major General,
U.S. Air Force

Carla A. Harris
Director since 2017
Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley

Marissa A. Mayer
Director since 2012
Former President and CEO, Yahoo! Inc.

Carol B. Armitage
Director since 2007
Former SVP, Technology & Strategy, General Instrument

Jeannie H. Diefenderfer
Director since 2016
Founder & CEO,
courageNpurpose LLC

Julie A. Shimer
Director since 2017
Former CEO,
Welch Allyn Inc.

All-Male Boards of Arkansas-based Public Companies
Arkansas public companies with no women in their boards of directors

7 directors
12 directors *
6 directors
8 directors

*Announced acquisition by privately held Arvest Bank is pending

Source: the companies and their filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

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