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Bentley Management professors co-author report on women in corporate board rooms

October 28, 2003

Two Bentley management professors, in partnership with The Boston Club, have found that nearly one-half of the largest 100 public companies in Massachusetts do not have women directors and only 9 percent of all board seats in these companies are held by women. The companies without women directors sell everything from ice cream to shoes, from software to medical devices, from pianos to dental services.

The report concludes that although women are a critical and growing force in the economy as business owners, consumers, employees and investors, they remain a significantly underutilized resource for corporate boards in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country. The study is based on the Boston Globe's "Globe 100 Sales."

The Boston Club's study was co-authored by Bentley's Patricia Flynn, trustee professor of Economics and Management; and Susan Adams, associate professor of Management. According to Flynn, recent changes in the corporate governance environment suggest that the time is ripe for substantial change in the make-up of corporate board rooms. Increased regulations, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, are additionally requiring a greater presence of independent directors and of financial experts.

"Women have been sidelined for so long that they now make excellent' independent' candidates," said Flynn. "And since women now comprise over half of the financial managers in the U.S. they provide a large pool of candidates who would qualify as financial experts."

Co-author Adams said diverse backgrounds and individuals in the boardroom will result in discussions that incorporate a wider range of views and perspectives.

"There may be more challenging of the conventional wisdom and the way in which things have always been done in the past," said Adams. "But this is good for business in the dynamically changing marketplace. A diverse board is also more likely to tackle head-on issues of ethics and related topics that have too often been relegated to the back burner."

The largest public companies in Massachusetts compare favorably with national averages, in terms of women on their boards. For example, 81.8 percent of the Massachusetts companies in the 2003 Census that are also listed in the Fortune 1000 have at least one woman on the board. The comparable figure nationwide is 73.5 percent.

"Those women who have succeeded in obtaining board seats are in a position to introduce other women into the networks used to fill board vacancies," said Toni Wolfman, Chair of The Boston Club's Corporate Board Resources Committee. "This is one way to improve the situation reflected in the Census."

Overall Numbers

· 56% of these companies have no women executive officers.

· Women hold 9.0 % of the board seats in these companies.

· Over one-third (35%) of these companies have no woman at either the board level or executive officer ranks.

· The Massachusetts figures for women directors are within the range of those reported in similar Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia reports.

Firm Size Makes a Difference




  • Larger companies have a greater number and greater share of board members who are women than do smaller companies.
  • Compared to Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies nationwide, with 12.4% and 10.9% respectively of their board members women, the largest companies in this study have a comparable or better record (12.4% and 11.2% respectively).
  • 81.8 % of the Massachusetts companies in the Census that are listed in the Fortune 1000 have at least one woman on the board, compared with 73.5% nationwide.

    Industry Also Makes a Difference




    • The Consumer Goods sector has the highest proportion of women directors (12.7%) followed by Medical Devices (11.1%), Retail/Restaurants (10.4%), and Services (9.8%). Companies in the Manufacturing/Industrial sector have the smallest proportion at 5.6%, with Biotechnology at 7.6%, Financial Services at 8.1%, and Technology at 8.6%.
    • In terms of companies with at least one woman on the board, the Medical Devices sector leads with 71.4%, followed by Financial Services (58.3%), and Biotechnology (55.6%). Half (50.0%) of the companies in the Consumer Goods and Retail/Restaurant sectors have at least one woman on their board. The Services and the Manufacturing/Industrial sectors have the lowest proportion of companies with women directors, with 41.2% and 41.7% respectively.

    BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit

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