Last year, women held only 14.7 percent of board seats in Fortune 500 boards, according to Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization that seeks to expand opportunities for professional women. Fifty-three of those companies have no women on their boards (see the November 2006 issue of PINK for the full list).
Catalyst has been counting since 1995, when women held 9.6 percent of the seats. The average annual increase since ‘95 has been only 0.5 percentage points (that’s twenty-one new seats per year). At this rate, women will not have equity on corporate boards for seventy years, a sad statistic, but not an assured fate.
PINK wants to see these numbers increase dramatically in the next few years. We want you at the table. Consider these tips to get yourself on board:
Ten Ways to Break into the Boardroom
1. Become CEO of a corporation.
2. Get promoted to a C-level job like chief financial officer or chief operating officer.
3. Serve on a high-profile nonprofit board, where other CEOs also are members, and then take up a leadership role.
4. Own a business. Your perspective is unique and invaluable as a leader who already runs the profit and loss of your company.
5. Become head of an academic institution or a recognized expert in your field.
6. Learn to play golf. A lot of decisions are informal, so recreational activities with men who are decision-makers help.
7. Make high-level connections at alumni clubs and associations outside your immediate sphere of influence.
8. Make sure women’s organizations like Catalyst and executive search firms know of your interest in serving on a board.
9. Let your company’s CEO know of your interest, since he or she can open doors.
10. Be extremely visible in your own industry and outside by giving speeches.
Too often men looking for women to join the board complain that they can’t find them. Here’s where to look:
Catalyst, the leading research and advisory organization that works to expand opportunities for working women. (catalyst.org)
Corporate Women Directors International, an organization focused on increasing women’s corporate board participation globally. (globewomen.com/cwdi/cwdi.asp)
Center for Executive Women at Northwestern University, which runs a course to prepare women to be board directors. (kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/cew/steering.htm)
The Directors’ Council, a Chicago-based firm that recruits women and minorities to sit on corporate boards. (directorscouncil.com)
The Committee of 200, an organization of powerful women in business. (c200.org)
The National Association of Corporate Directors, which serves corporate governance needs of board members. (nacdonline.org)
Institute for Women’s Leadership, which provides leadership training, coaching and consulting to women. (womensleadership.com)
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