Women on Corporate Boards of Directors
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Women on Corporate Boards of Directors

International Research and Practice

Edited by Susan Vinnicombe, Val Singh, Ronald J. Burke, Diana Bilimoria and Morten Huse

This important new book addresses the growing international interest in women on corporate boards of directors.
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Chapter 1: Women Board Directors in the United States: An Eleven Year Retrospective

Lois Joy


Lois Joy INTRODUCTION During the past ten years, progress was slow for women onto the boards of the largest 500 US firms. While women held 9.6 per cent of the Fortune board seats in 1995, by 2006 women held 14.6 per cent of all board seats. Overall, women’s share of the Fortune 500 board seats has risen, on average, only one half of a percentage point each year since 1995. At this rate of growth, it would take at least 70 years for women to reach parity with men on Fortune 500 boards. The Fortune 500 (F500) is a ranking of the top 500 United States publicly traded corporations as measured by gross revenue and is compiled annually by Fortune magazine.1 The F500 controls a massive amount of total US revenues, $9 896 748 000 in 2006, and employs over 785 000 people globally. The boards of the F500 oversee the management, governance and strategic plans of these corporations (Lorsch, 1995). Board members also set executive pay, which for F500 CEOs in 2005 averaged $8.4 million.2 Given the large share of global wealth controlled by the F500, the directors leading these corporations can exert considerable control over all aspects of US and global consumer, product and labor markets. Directors additionally play key roles in local, national and global policy development. In this chapter, we consider women’s access to these powerful board positions and explore why change for women has been so slow. We further discuss why there need to be...

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