Archives for posts with tag: Women on Boards

The Wall Street Journal just published a new article on this subject. A huge money manager, State Street announced it would vote against corporate Board members who are part of company’s nominating committee and do not add women to their Boards. State Street is also placing a statue of a young girl on Wall Street where she will stare at the famous Bull. (I did not make this up!)

In a review of the Russell 3000 index of companies, a quarter of firms have no female directors and over half of the firms have under 15% of women on their Boards.

In my book, The Business Zoo, I commented on what I called the One Third role of Board members. One third of Board members should not be on Boards at all due to lack of valuable background, age or being too busy on other Boards. The second One Third had the potential to be qualified and contribute but for a number of reasons did not; not reading the Board materials ahead or ever making a worthwhile comment. The final One Third led the Board and did a great job.

In my day we only had one or two women on a typical Board of 10 to 12. The women Directors were always in the best One Third category.  Why was this? Did they consider it an honor and a duty to service a firm which was paying them a lot of money? Were they younger and had much more energy and focus? Did they, as women, just work with other people better when given a chance? Of course all of these reasons are true. In fact, State Street’s research shows that in the last five years, Boards with at least three women Directors outperformed those companies with no women Directors. No surprise to me.

So how do we end up with more women on corporate Boards? I am not big on the statue. I do agree that voting pressure on companies and their Boards can help. Boards all have committees to nominate and elect new directors. Most of the committee members are men who nominate other men who they know. The existing women on Boards need to exert some pressure themselves and get on these nominating committees. Then not be shy about suggesting other women. And they can point to studies that show that Boards with more women directors can drive success and higher stock values!

Add on note: I really appreciate everyone who reads this blog and who bought my book on Amazon. I have received some wonderful feedback and am now starting on a second book!


A recent study of women directors on Standard and Poors 1500 company boards was done for the Wall Street Journal by governance researchers at MSCI Inc. Today, women make up about 16% of all these directors which is a slight improvement from 2009 when women were 12.5% of these directors.  Of the 67 firms that have a female CEO, like IBM, General Motors or PepsiCo, those Boards often have three or more women. Remember that most Boards average 8 to 12 directors. So, some slow progress is being made.

My last two public company Boards each had one female director at the time and currently have three women out of a total of 21 positions. These companies and their competitors in the construction and chemical industries are historically under represented by women versus many of the more consumer related firms.

But enough of the statistics, let’s get to the main point. What was my experience with women directors? In a word or two, they were better than many of their male counterparts. Let me list some reasons why.

1. Women directors view their position on corporate Boards as more of an honor and thus take it more serious. This may be because they have fewer opportunities or because they have to really work hard to land the role versus many of the “old boy” overlapping Board networks which still exist. The women directors are usually younger and are on fewer Boards than many of their male counterparts. We once had a male Director resign because he “accidentally” joined a direct competitor’s Board! I doubt that happens much with female Directors.

2. The women directors came better prepared to Board meetings. All companies send the bulk of their meeting documents ahead. Some of our male directors did not even bother to bring these materials probably because they had not read some or all of it and had made no notes. The women directors brought the materials and you could tell they had read them and had made notes.

3. The women directors stayed focused on the matters at hand. Sometime Board meetings, especially unexpected ones by phone can take a long time and it is hard to manage directors when you can’t see them. On these phone meetings, I have had male directors fall asleep and snore, go to a nearby bathroom without closing a door or have a lengthy discussion with their wife about what sandwich they will make them for lunch. Female directors really behave much better as a group!

So when you consider these examples along the fact that women are smarter than men and are more social than men and live longer, they should be on more Boards of Directors! Seriously, they should-but corporate america, like the rest of the world often takes a lot of time to change. I also believe that some men are aware of all the strengths that women can bring to leadership roles but are Afraid to give them the opportunity. And, as we have mentioned before on this blog, fear is not good in Board rooms or in The Business Zoo!