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TheBoardlist—a leading advocate for putting more women on corporate boards—opens its platform to men of color

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The movement for gender diversity on corporate boards has made real progress in the past decade, inching past the long-sought milestone of 20% female representation on Fortune 1000 boards in 2017. But while that effort has always aimed to include women of color, broader racial diversity has never been its first priority.

Now, one of the leading organizations pushing for more gender-inclusive boards is expanding its mission. TheBoardlist, a platform that connects companies with qualified women ready to serve as directors, will now allow men of color to participate in its service, the company announced Tuesday. That decision takes the power and influence of the largely successful movement to improve women’s representation on corporate boards and puts it behind the push for boards’ racial diversity, which has been backed by far fewer resources.

“Our broad lens was always diversity. Our starting point was gender,” says theBoardlist founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy. “We’ve always known at some point we would expand. There’s no doubt that the acceleration of racial equity as a cultural issue and a business issue definitely led us to say this is the right time.”

Within the Fortune 500, white men hold 66% of board seats, theBoardlist says. Another 18% belong to white women. Nine percent of Fortune 500 board directors are Black men or women, 4% are Asian, and 4% are Latino.

TheBoardlist began with advocating for women, Singh Cassidy says, because the issue was a “very obvious and large starting point.” Many other champions of corporate diversity have had a similar approach—including in state legislatures, where lawmakers have issued gender-based quotas for public companies, but have not yet done the same for race. (Illinois attempted to legislate on both fronts in 2019, but saw its final bill watered down by the time it reached the governor’s desk.)

Lawmakers and advocates have often hoped that gender would “open the door” to a broader conversation about diversity, says California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who introduced the state’s groundbreaking boards legislation.

That hasn’t always turned out to be the case. In states that have led on gender diversity on boards, racial diversity is certainly on lawmakers’ radar—but none have moved forward on the problem yet. “I suspect that issue will come up eventually, but I don’t think it’s top of mind for most folks,” says Washington State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, citing the more immediate pressures of the pandemic and police reform; Pedersen introduced the state’s board gender diversity legislation, which was enacted in March. Jackson is retiring so she won’t be leading any boards legislation on racial diversity in California, but she says the issue has come up among her colleagues and she expects to see some action.

The movement for board diversity involves other stakeholders besides lawmakers and advocates, from the companies naming candidates to these seats to the outside firms that help businesses navigate inflection points like initial public offerings. Goldman Sachs this year announced it would not take a company public unless it has at least one “diverse” member of its board; that language doesn’t leave out racial diversity, but it doesn’t explicitly require it either.

“I think you’ll see not just legislators, but people who are involved in taking companies public, or in corporate governance,” predicts Singh Cassidy, “they’ll all broadly trend towards this initiative.”

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One pandemic, two recoveries: New Yorkers are three times more likely to be jobless than Nebraskans

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It’s going to take a long time to get out of this economic mess, but we’re making progress: Since the end of April, the economy has added more than 10 million jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen from its peak of 14.7% to 8.4%.

But that national recovery is unequal. Employment in some states is back to pre-pandemic levels, while others are at mass joblessness levels surpassing the 2007-09 Great Recession.

When the pandemic hit, the jobless rate in Nebraska soared from 4% in March to 8.7% in April. But the state’s nearly fully reopened economy has helped push the jobless rate back to 4% as of August.

The picture in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring, is far less rosy. It saw its jobless rate climb from 4.1% in March to a staggering 15.3% by April. It has since improved to 12.5% in August—a figure that is still above the U.S. peak of 8.9% jobless rate during the Great Recession era.

How can a New Yorker be three times more likely to be jobless than a Nebraskan?

States like Nebraska that are more rural and haven’t been as hard hit by the pandemic have almost fully reopened. Earlier this month Nebraska allowed outdoor gatherings to reopen at 100%, including sports stadiums and fairgrounds. And places like bars and tattoo parlors were reopened weeks ago.

Northeast states like New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut were hit hard by the virus in the spring and are reopening businesses at much slower rates. Case in point: Indoor dinning in New York City doesn’t start back until September 30, and that’s only at 25% capacity. That cautious approach explains why New York’s jobless rate remains so high.

While New York leads the nation at 33,092 lives lost to the pandemic, its case load and deaths are plummeting, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Only .9% of COVID-19 tests in New York are coming back positive compared to over 50% at one point in April. Nebraska has far fewer COVID-19 deaths (452), however, its positive rate is 12.6%—which is above the 10% threshold that adds incoming travelers to New York’s 14-day quarantine.

And joblessness in New York is also elevated by its large leisure and hospitality concentration. That sector was smashed by the pandemic, and has yet to rebound. Leisure and hospitality jobs in New York City alone are still down 48%. And that’s also why joblessness is still so high in tourism heavy California (11.4%), Hawaii (12.5%), and Nevada (13.2%).

While Florida also has a massive tourism industry, its jobless rate is only 7.4% in August which can be chalked up to a more aggressive reopening plan than states like Nevada or New York.

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