By Katy Osborn
October 6, 2015
Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

It’s well known that women are drastically underrepresented in the highest echelons of corporate America, and minorities even more so. In a survey recently released by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez of 69 Fortune 100 companies, just 22.9% of corporate directors were female. People of color made up just 18.3% of directors, and women of color 4.2%.

But according to PwC’s 2015 Annual Corporate Directors Survey, published Tuesday, that’s not a problem America’s business elite views as particularly urgent.

Of 783 public company directors who responded to the summer 2015 survey, only 39% overall described gender diversity as a “very important” attribute for their company boards. The results were even more striking when these company directors were asked about the importance of racial diversity: just 30% characterized it as “very important.”

The results weren’t uniform across the board (or boards, rather): gender proved a significant variable in influencing survey responses, as did length of tenure and the market capitalization of the companies with which the respondents were involved.

Female corporate directors were nearly twice as likely as their male counterparts to call gender diversity “very important” (63% of women vs. 35% of men); likewise with racial diversity (46% of women vs. 27% of men). And women were more than twice as likely to agree that general board diversity boosts company performance: Nearly three-quarters (74%) of women backed this statement, compared with only 31% of men.

Length of board service also played a role: 62% of newbies—respondents with just a year of board service—said that they “very much” agreed that board diversity is important, compared with just 39% of respondents whose tenure had already exceeded a decade.

On the upside, 67% of directors of “mega-cap companies,” including such household names as Apple, JP Morgan, and Wells Fargo, called diversity “very important” to board composition, as compared with only 31% of “micro-cap” companies.

The findings are somewhat akin to those of a recent study by and McKinsey & Company, which found that despite companies paying “lip service” to the importance of gender diversity, individual employees surveyed claimed that company leadership had no such priorities, suggesting that the road to equal representation in corporate America lacks backing from those in the best position to build it.

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