Market Overview

2020 Milwaukee Women inc Research Report Shows Continued Progress in Percentage of Women Directors on Wisconsin Public Company Boards


Percentage of women executives also increases

Milwaukee Women inc (MWi), a nonprofit organization that works to achieve balanced representation of women on boards of directors to maximize the performance of Wisconsin businesses, today released its 17th annual research report, "Moving the Needle."

The report showed the percentage of women on the boards of Wisconsin's top 50 public companies reached an all-time high as the organization works toward its goal of 25 percent women directors by 2025.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The percentage of women holding director seats on the boards of Wisconsin's 50 largest public companies (WI 50) reached 21.1 percent, up from 20.8 percent in 2019.
  • 26 percent of the WI 50 have three or more female directors, compared to 30 percent in 2019, largely due to the retirement of several women board members. The "Power of 3" is significant because research has found that women need to hold at least three board seats to maximize the benefits of diversity within the board.
  • 8 percent of companies have four or more women board members, compared to 6.7 percent in 2019.

"We continued to move the needle with the percentage of women directors on the boards of the top 50 Wisconsin public companies the highest since we began measuring. While this continued momentum is exciting, there is still much work to be done," said Pat Ackerman, senior vice president of A.O. Smith Corporation and chair of Milwaukee Women inc.

Other key findings in this year's report include:

  • Women Directors:
    • 28 percent of newly elected directors are women.
    • A recent study by Catalyst showed that women of color held fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 board seats, yet they represent approximately 18 percent of the US population.
  • Women Executives:
    • The percentage of women executives in the WI 50 increased to 21.9 percent in 2020, from 21.2 percent in 2019.
    • 36 percent of the WI 50 have three or more women executives, a 5.9 percent increase from 2019.

Of the WI 50, ManpowerGroup topped the list with the highest percentage of female directors (45 percent, or five of its 11 directors). Exact Sciences Corporation ranked first on the list of the WI 50 companies with the most female executives (28 percent or 7 out of 25).

Milwaukee Women inc has been producing research on board gender diversity of the 50 largest Wisconsin-based public companies since 2004. To read this year's report, visit

About Milwaukee Women inc (MWi)

Milwaukee Women inc is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to achieving balanced representation of women on boards of directors to maximize the performance of Wisconsin businesses. MWi is a catalyst for change through its benchmarking research, education and advocacy, providing resources and programs for Wisconsin companies and women leaders. For more information please visit our website:

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