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Still a long way to go for women in the boardroom

It is continuously difficult for women to maintain board positions in the U.S., but the historical obstacles have not kept them from trying

The number of women appointed to positions the boardroom has been not only a matter of gender equality, but of diversity for many investment firms. While efforts have seemingly increased over the years on the part of corporate boards to include more women, the old boys’ club is still alive and well.

Women in positions of power recently came into focus again for the media as Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor for the New York Times, was ousted last week. Her removal was rumored to be a product of gender bias, which set off sparks of discussion around women in top spots in corporations. For a few reasons, women are still unable to obtain and hold board positions in investment firms. Deborah L. Jacobs for Forbes writes that — at the Women Corporate Directors Global Institute in New York recently — women met to discuss the obstacles that lie between them and boardroom positions.

Part of the difficulty lies in the traditional legacy of men referring other men for choice seats. And even when women land board seats, they often are unable to keep them for as long as men do. But Jacobs has some tips garnered from the WCD programs that go to women looking to obtain and maintain seats in the boardroom. Among them are: start young, such as in your 30s; be strategic about acquiring pertinent types of knowledge about regulation and technology; understand headhunters; create digital footprints; obtain international experience if possible; and bank on a start up. 

The U.S. lags in numbers of women who hold board seats. InsideCounsel’s Erin Harrison writes that women held only 16.9 percent of board seats in 2013, which is hardly a change from 2012’s 16.6 percent ranking. The Thirty Percent Coalition is a group pushing companies to bring on at least 30 percent women to their boards by 2015. Harrison quotes the Coalition’s Executive Director Charlotte Laurent-Ottomane: 

“What’s new today is that substantial research underscores the correlation between gender diversity, good governance and positive long-term corporate performance. We are urging the business community to take this step not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.” 

Indeed, studies have shown that companies with more diverse boards and more gender-equal environments do better in the long-term than ones that remain fixed in the old boys’ club. But it looks like it will take a few more collectives before the U.S. can get its numbers of female board members up to snuff.

 

Further reading:

 

Number of women CEOs remains low, but long-term outlook will improve

U.S. lags in placing women on boards as investors urge for more diversity

Leading in-house women embrace business skills to match legal acumen

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to InsideCounsel.com, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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