A Woman’s Place Is At The Table

What We Must Do to Further Gender Equity on the Boards of Corporate America

  • From 2017 to 2018, women gained 469 board seats, while men lost 382 board seats (net).
  • The services and utilities sectors show the most progress, with more than 20 percent of seats held by women.
  • Four states — Connecticut, Michigan, Minnesota and Washington — have exceeded the 20 percent goal.
  • Board diversity at IPOs is disappointing, with only 9.2 percent of board seats held by women.
  • What are your skills? A resume for a board position isn’t a job resume; rather, it’s a document that demonstrates your relevant expertise with board work. Are you a big-picture thinker, a fiduciary expert or someone who’s dealt with governance issues? Have you travelled or worked globally? More, now than ever before, corporations are searching for directors with experience in cybersecurity, human capital, emerging markets and digital marketing.
  • Where can you find and lend support? Use the resources of 2020 Women on Boards and think about registering for an event in your community.
  • What’s happening in public policy? The gains in putting women on boards is happening because organizations are conducting research, preparing women, lobbying shareholders and doing the heavy lifting. In 2018, California passed a law mandating all companies principally located in the state have at least one female member by the end of this year. By 2021, companies with five-member boards will need at least two female members, while those with six or more members will need three in order to remain compliant. Other states are following suit.
  • Resist the urge to recycle your friends for board seats. New ideas and more opportunities are needed, and people with too much on their plates may struggle to be effective board members.
  • Build your pipeline by using industry associations, professional contacts or executive searches to find passionate, qualified people in mid-career. Think carefully about where to find these thought leaders.

Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.

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