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Bentley/The Boston Club Study Says Women Stuck in Neutral in Journey to Corporate Boardrooms

October 31, 2005

Two Bentley professors, in partnership with The Boston Club, have found that women continue to be an underutilized resource in the boardrooms and executive suites of Massachusetts companies, according to the 2005 Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Massachusetts Public Companies.

The Census, co-sponsored by Bentley, Mercer and The Boston Club, and presented at a breakfast on November 17 at the Westin Copley Plaza, shows that only two more board seats were filled this year by women, who now comprise just 9.9 percent of the directors of the 100 largest public companies in the state. Forty-five of the 100 largest companies still have no women on their boards. There were no gains in diversity in the boardrooms: the nine women of color who served as directors in 2004 are the same nine who serve in 2005.

Figures for women in executive positions increased, from 9.2 percent in 2004 to 10.1 percent in 2005. Forty-eight of the 100 companies, however, still have no women executive officers.

"There is a business issue here," says Patricia Flynn, Bentley trustee professor of economics and management, who co-authored the census with Bentley Professor of Management Susan Adams and Toni Wolfman, executive-in-residence at Bentley's Institute for Women in Leadership and chair of The Boston Club's board search effort. "Strong financial performance and good corporate governance are positively correlated with the presence of women directors. Yet, progress is so slow, if we didn't report the findings with one decimal place, you'd miss it!"

According to Adams, the 45 companies with no women directors sell everything from ice cream to software, from musical instruments to fabric. "Women are the dominant force behind purchasing power in this country, responsible for 83 percent of all consumer spending," Adams noted. "Women are also in control of the $14 trillion in wealth in the United States and account for almost half of all investors."

There is, however, reason for some optimism. The 2005 Census includes a special analysis on Women in Board Leadership Positions. It shows that approximately one-third of the 100 companies now have a woman on the nominating committee of the board. These women can help to diversify the pool of candidates being considered for director positions by providing names, sources and contacts not previously known to their male counterparts.

The 2005 Census concludes that women are clearly an underutilized resource available to Massachusetts companies, and that help is increasingly available to companies in identifying qualified women for board and executive positions. "In addition to executive search firms, The Boston Club and its partner groups in the InterOrganization Network (ION) throughout the country are willing and able to help in this regard," says Toni Wolfman. "Our goal in the year ahead is to get Massachusetts out of neutral and into first gear!"

A copy of the full report can be downloaded by clicking here.

Key Findings


Women Directors

  • Women hold 9.9% of the 825 board seats of the100 largest public companies in Massachusetts, up from 9.5% last year and 9.0% in 2003.
  • Fifty-five (55.0%) of these companies have at least one woman director, the same as a year ago.
  • Just over one percent (1.1%) of the board seats of these companies are filled by the same nine women of color as last year.


Firm Size Makes a Difference

  • Larger companies, on average, have a greater number and a greater percentage of board members who are women than do smaller companies.
  • Eighty-eight (88.0%) of the companies with revenues over $1 billion have at least one woman director. In contrast, only 34.8% of the companies with revenues below $500 million have at least one woman director.
  • All nine Fortune 500 companies in the Census have at least one woman director.


    Industry Also Makes a Difference

    • The Consumer Goods sector has the highest percentage (14.0%) of women directors. Services is the next highest sector with 12.4% women directors, followed by Retail/Restaurant with 10.5% and Life Sciences with 9.9%.
    • Two-thirds (66.7%) of the Retail/Restaurant companies have women board members, the highest representation by industry sector. In contrast, the Technology sector has the smallest proportion of companies (48.0%) with at least one woman on their boards.



    Special Analysis: Women in Board Leadership Positions

    • Three women serve as Chair of the Board and four serve as Lead or Presiding Director.
    • Twenty-four (24) women chair board committees and 12 are designated as 'financial experts.'
    • Of the 76 women who are 'independent' directors, all but four (all recent appointees) serve on at least one board committee; 42 serve on two or more committees.


    Women Executive Officers

    • Women account for 10.1% of the 756 executive officers of the largest public companies in Massachusetts, up from 9.2% in both 2004 and 2003.
    • Fifty-two (52.0%) of these companies have at least one woman executive officer, compared to 50.0% last year and 44.0% in 2003.
    • Twenty-eight (28.0%) of these companies have at least one woman among the five most highly compensated executives, compared to 27.0% a year ago.


    Directors and Executive Officers

    • Women comprise 20% or more of both the director and executive officer groups in five companies, down from eight a year ago.
    • Twenty-nine (29.0%) of the 100 companies have no women at either the board level or in the executive officer ranks, a step back from 27 a year ago.

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