Tesla has bucked its trend of appointing mostly men to its board of directors. And the move could mark a new direction for other Silicon Valley companies as they make their leadership teams more diverse.On Monday, Tesla welcomed Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice, the second woman out of a group of nine board members and the first African-American to hold that role, according to Fortune.
“We’re very excited that Tesla has named Linda Johnson Rice to the board,” Ronald C. Parker, chairman of the Alliance for Board Diversity, tells CNBC Make It. “Tesla is an innovative company and we’d like to see more blacks and women in these tech spaces.”
Tesla’s announcement this week marks a break from the more common appointment of white males to board positions.
A recent study by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte shows that white men maintain the most board seats at Fortune 500 companies, although the percentage of women and minorities has increased in recent years. Caucasian men hold 69.2 percent of the seats analyzed, followed by Caucasian women who hold 16.4 percent, according to the study.
Prior to Rice’s appointment, only two women have served on Tesla’s board in the company’s 14-year history. The first is Laurie Yoler, who was on the board of directors from 2003-2006 and then the board of advisors from 2008-2013. The second is Robyn Denholm, who was appointed to the board of directors in 2014.
“Women make 85 percent of the purchasing decisions in the household, so to have that female perspective on a board is beneficial,” says Parker, who is also the president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council. He adds that in black households, the percentage is even higher.
Rice could not initially be reached for comment, and Tesla sent a link to its announcement but declined to comment further.