Should Boards of Directors Have More Women?

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 How many large company Boards of Directors have women members?  A 2008 Catalyst survey made it clear:

"Findings:In 2008, women held 15.2 percent of directorships at Fortune 500 companies; this number was 14.8 percent in 2007. The number of companies with no women board directors increased from 59 in 2007 to 66 in 2008. The number of companies with three or more women board directors increased from 83 in 2007 to 92 in 2008. Women of color held just 3.2 percent of all Fortune500 directorships while making up slightly more than one-fifth of women directors."

The situation continues unchanged.  Why?  Because the pool of available women is small.  Because women aren't interested in that kind of commitment to the corporate world.  Because women value balance in their lives.

Horse feathers!

I have the privilege of working for a major organization in the not-for-profit world that happens to have women in senior positions in operations and at the Board table.  It wasn't designed that way.  It wasn't intentional.  All of the promotions were based on merit alone.  I, for one, can't tell the difference.  Seriously.  Like many other charities (and corporations for that matter), in the past few years we have had to make some difficult choices to bring our expenses in line with revenues.  We face the same issues as other organizations with changing technology and discerning how best to serve our stakeholders.  We wouldn't have responded to them any differently with a man's hand on the wheel.  

While the social scientists may find enduring differences between the sexes when looking at whole populations of people, on the ground, those differences are too subtle to notice.  But I'll tell you what is noticeable.  If a reporter was to walk into one of your Board meetings and take a picture, would the public say, "They're all the same"?  Are they all male, all white, all old?  Whatever the measure, if the Board were to face a public relations challenge, would they be dismissed as having a hidden agenda?

The key to a resilient Board that can face public scrutiny is diversity.  You need a mix of races, ages, genders, etc. etc. whatever the measures your consituents, regulatory authorities and the general public would consider important for your company.  It's like having a construction company Board without a single engineer or a consumer products Board without a marketer.  It just doesn't make sense.

So, the next time a Board position comes open, don't just select another personal friend of some insider.  Dig a little deeper, go a little further.  Find someone who's going to contribute to the long term success of the organization.  You'll be surprised at what she can contribute!

Oh, and on that work/life balance thing?  Guess what, it matters to us guys too.  Just sayin.


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