The Velocity of Women on Boards

I am a great fan of Jim Kristie's. He is the editor and associate publisher of Directors & Boards and has had a long term interest in women on boards. Here's his most recent update (with apologies for wholesale quoting!). It represents good news for those who care about greater representation of women on corporate boards.
"(Directors & Boards) has been documenting for the past two years elevated levels of women joining boards. Here are some of our latest findings (expertly crunched by Roster editor Kelly McCarthy):

  • In the first quarter of 2011, 34% of new director elections that we tracked were women.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2010, 38% of new directors were women.
  • For 2010 as a whole, 34% of board appointees recorded in the Roster were women; in 2009, the recruitment rate was 39% — a dramatic leap from 25% in 2008.
Most major surveys of board composition point to representation of women stuck in the mid-teens range, where it has been mired for years. To my mind, there is a simple explanation for meshing these very different recruitment findings.

The major surveys are a snapshot of board composition at a fixed point in time — an annual look at who is sitting on a defined universe of boards. The Directors Roster is a snapshot of a quarterly flow of activity at a random universe of boards — companies that happen to have added a new board member.

This is a bit of apples and oranges. What we are looking at with the Roster is velocity — a moving target — whereas the annual board reports are measuring an end point. We need both sets of measurements to properly gauge marketplace activity.

As a longtime champion of board diversity, I am sympathetic to the concern my survey counterparts share with me — that the optimistic picture we present in the Roster could lull people into thinking that recruiting of women directors is going along just swimmingly, when in fact all the annual reviews of board composition do not seem to bear that out. That’s why I prominently cite other surveys in Directors & Boards that show how sluggish the progress is of board diversity.

I agree that many questions are left unresolved about the enduring impact of our measure of velocity. Perhaps it is a matter of time — and it will be a lot of time — before we see the cumulative impact of these elevated recruiting levels.

But something is going on, and that is where the Roster data play an important tracking role."
Thanks, again. Jim for your good work!

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Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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