The Missing X Factor on Corporate Boards

by Kimberly Crowe for Boardmember, June, 2011.

In the United States today, women comprise more than 50% of the graduate pool, hold 50% of all managerial and professional positions, and make or influence 80% of the purchasing decisions, yet command only about 15% of the board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

According to a 2010 survey by Catalyst, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in the workplace, females represent 15.7% of Fortune 500 corporate board positions, up slightly from 15.2% in 2009. The percentage has changed little in the last five years.

Recent reports put the percentage of women currently holding board seats nationwide as low as 12%, according to surveys by GovernanceMetrics and the Deloitte Global Center for Corporate Governance.

Far from an American phenomenon, countries across Europe are caught up in a rapidly escalating debate on the role of women in business, particularly with regard to their service on corporate boards. While some countries like Spain, France, and Norway already have quota systems in place to foster gender parity in the boardroom, the European Union’s justice commissioner has asked all publicly listed companies to appoint more women or face the possibility of imposed quotas if they don’t. Similar to U.S. figures, current EU data show that only 12% of board members at Europe’s biggest firms are female.  (continue reading… )

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