There are three women on Stellantis NV's 11-member board. Everyone is native to western Europe, Canada or the United States except for member Wan Ling Martello, who was born in the Philippines, according to the company's annual report.
"Studies tend to show that you need three for it to make a difference in terms of gender diversity, I assume it's the same for racial diversity," Schipani said. "Otherwise, one can be more like a token that no one listens to, [with] two it starts to get better, but by three ... then there's a real voice, and then difference can be made."
The push for corporate diversity at the executive and board level intensified last year following mass protests for racial equality following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
In September, California passed a law requiring California-headquartered public companies to have at least one board director who is part of an underrepresented community. The state also has a board gender diversity mandate.
Schipani is in the middle of researching how compliant companies have been with the gender mandate, and so far her research has found companies are following the rules.
"They're bringing in women with experience, they're ... lifting up women in their own companies," she said.
Board diversity is important for companies to have representation of their own workforce, the consumers that buy their products and their suppliers, partners and communities where they operate, said Cheryl Thompson, CEO at the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement.
The push for more corporate diversity hasn't only been made by society, Thompson said, but also by investors like Goldman Sachs, which refused to underwrite initial public offerings for companies if they don't have at least one diverse member on the board.
"The investors are working on this because they see the business case," Thompson said. "They're looking at the shifting demographics, and they're saying we're going to have this smaller and smaller talent pool if we're still focused on the majority white male."
The Detroit Three are working on diversity objectives "really hard" and they are "really trying to make a difference," Thompson said. "What's nice is this isn't something they see as competitive. It's like that: 'rising tide lifts all boats,' and they're willing to come in and share what they're doing to move the needle."©2021 www.detroitnews.com. Visit at detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.