Last week, Tesla welcomed a new member into their board of directors: CEO of Ebony Media, Linda Johnson Rice. Rice will join as the second of two women currently holding a seat in the group of nine. She is also the first African-American to hold that role.
In Tesla’s 14-year history, only two women have served on Tesla’s board of directors prior to Rice. The first was Laurie Yoler, who served between the years of 2003 and 2006. The second was Robyn Denholm, who took over this role in 2014. Now Rice will now step in to further the company’s plans to diversify their workforce.
Though Tesla has never formally released any information on the gender and race makeup of its company, it has been called out before for lacking diversity. The company responded by releasing a statement in which they promised to maintain diversity as a priority.
Tesla isn’t the only company that has gotten a slap on the wrist for having a low percentage of women and minorities in its workforce. Other tech industries like Google and Facebook have received backlash for under representing these groups in their hiring processes. True, there has been progress in the past couple of years as minority groups entered into the tech world, but as recently as last year, major industries reported African Americans comprising as little as three percent of their workforce.
A study by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte found that white men still hold the most board seats in Fortune 500 companies. It concluded that “while there have been gains [for minorities], they have been negligible at best, and certainly not representative of the broad demographic changes we have seen in the U.S. in the same period of time.” Since 2012, the number of board of director seats gained by minorities have been minute compared to those gained by white men.
This graphic from the study conducted by Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte found that white men gained more seats in Fortune 500 companies than any other demographic in the years between 2012 and 2016
For there to be a turn-around, companies need to stop making excuses for not hiring women and people of color. The myth that there aren’t enough women and minorities qualified for these positions must be discredited. Instead, tech industries should look to branch out from their usual pool of candidates for these higher-level positions because what they don’t realize is that increasing the diversity within their companies reap major benefits. For one, it allows for diversity in skill and thought as different people bring new ideas to the table. Also, this creates incentive for more diverse hires across the company.
On the other hand, women should aspire to take on these positions by seizing opportunities. They should seek positions that will produce revenue for the company.
When the road to equality becomes a two-way street where women strive for higher positions and companies are more willing to welcome women into these positions, it is easier to break the barriers that keep us from achieving success. As Linda Johnson Rice takes her place in Tesla’s board of directors, we rest easy knowing that although there is still a long way to go, this event takes us one step closer to change.