Bill to boost minorities on corporate boards gutted

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(Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash)

No Blacks on the boards of Walgreens, Sears, Kraft Heinz

Crusader Staff Report

A bill that aimed to boost the number of Blacks and minorities on the boards of some of the biggest companies in the Chicago area failed as lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session June 1.

Legislation that aimed to diversify corporate boards in Illinois passed during the final days of the General Assembly’s spring legislative session, but was stripped of a key provision that would have mandated minority representation.

H.B. 3394, would have required Illinois companies to have at least one woman, an African-American and a Latino on their boards. But the Senate stripped the bill of a requirement that would have forced publicly-traded companies in Illinois to report on their websites the demographics of their board and executive ranks, as well as plans for promoting diversity in the workplace.

The bill that Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law will only require an annual report card on diversity among Illinois companies. The report will be published by the University of Illinois. The report will provide aggregate demographic data on Illinois businesses and rate each on its diversity effort.

The rating system will assess the diversity of each company’s board and executive ranks as well as its effort to encourage diversity in recruiting, board membership, and executive appointments.

The original version of the bill passed the House in March, after a contentious floor debate.

The Crusader is currently investigating the demographics of all Fortune 500 companies. So far, the Crusader has found that many publicly traded companies in the Chicago area have no Blacks on their corporate boards, including Sears, Walgreens, Kraft-Heinz, Transunion and Monedelz.

Data collected by the Tribune last month found that of the 30 most valuable companies in Illinois according to market capitalization, all but one had at least three women on their boards. Half had only one African-American, and six — Walgreens, Kraft-Heinz, Mondelez, Arthur Gallagher, IDEX and TransUnion — had no African-Americans.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, leader of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition said the bill was “gutted.”

“The struggle continues,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “But it’s just not the board – it goes beyond the board members, how many Black or Latino lawyers are employed by the company? How many people of color are handling the 401K investments, the procurement pipelines — what kind of diversity is there? It’s not just the board, it’s up and down the corporate system.”

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