Board Seats Elusive for Women

Studies raise awareness; new database lets women nominate themselves.

While women in finance see the experience of serving on the board of directors of a public company as a stepping stone to top corporate positions, progress in this arena has been slow, as shown by several recent studies.

In 2011, women held 16.1% of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies, a barely discernible gain from 15.7% in 2010, according to a Catalyst survey released in December, which also pointed out that about one in 10 of the companies have no women on their boards.

A study GMI Ratings released in March shows incrementally small improvement for women board members globally, up 0.7 percentage point to 10.5% of the directors of 4,300 companies in 45 countries. The study notes that national statistics vary widely: in Norway, 36% of company directors are women, while in Germany, only 13% are. France clocked the biggest increase in women on boards last year after a law was passed mandating 20% female representation within three years and 40% in six.

“The lack of women representation on boards of directors is totally linked to fewer women in the C-suite,” says Kim Gladman, director of research at GMI Ratings and co-author of the report. “U.S. progress has been dismal,” Gladman adds, citing a 0.5% increase in women serving on boards in the last three years.

To boost diversity and in answer to the frequent complaint that there are not enough women candidates to fill board positions, Calpers and Calsters commissioned the corporate governance consultancy to develop the Diverse Director DataSource, which launched last fall. Applicants with suitable skills and experience can go to and submit their profiles.

“Women can nominate themselves,” Gladman says. “It takes about two hours to fill out.” The database is offered to companies and search firms as a resource for finding untapped talent to serve on corporate boards.



See the 2012 list of 30 Outstanding Women in Finance here.


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