Women urged to help each other on to the board

Oct 17 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Women who aggressively support each other are more likely to earn their passage on to corporate boardrooms, a U.S study has suggested.

The national survey of women board directors was conducted by recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles International and women's network Women Corporate Directors and polled 77 women board directors at 165 public companies.

"The good news is Heidrick & Struggles has seen an increase in the number of director searches targeting women across the U.S.," said Ted Dysart, H&S managing partner, Americas.

"However, the reality is that women still lag far behind their male counterparts," he added.

The 15 per cent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats held by women in 2006 was an increase of less than 1 percent since 2003, he pointed out.

Despite the slow inroads women are making in the boardroom, women do not want to be handed board seats simply for the sake of equality, they feel they must earn their way into the board room, the survey found.

More than three quarters of the women polled said they opposed a legal quota mandating an increase in the number of women occupying public board seats.

But women could help each other gain access to the boardroom, according to the survey.

Almost unanimously, 99 per cent said sitting women directors could make a difference in helping their peers gain board seats.

Nearly two thirds said they had taken steps to make sure that women were included in the pool of candidates considered for boards on which they sit.

"Women are working together to gain equal representation in the boardroom," said Women Corporate Directors co-founder Susan Stautberg.

"Women board members play a key role in helping women seeking positions by mentoring and networking with potential board members and being vocal by making recommendations to their board," she added.

Among other findings, 69 per cent said they have been explicitly asked to suggest other women as candidates for boards on which they sit.

An overwhelming 85 percent said they have recommended other woman for their boards, regardless if they were asked.

But only 54 per cent said that at least one of the women they had recommended was actually elected to their board.