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Latest Study by Bentley Professors Show Women Making Small Gains on Corporate Boards

November 30, 2004

In the latest study by two Bentley professors, in partnership with The Boston Club and Mercer, it is clear that although the number of women directors of the 100 largest public companies in Massachusetts remains low, there have been improvements over the past year, according to the 2004 Census of Women Directors and Executive Officers of Massachusetts Public Companies.

The Census, presented at The Boston Club's Corporate Breakfast on November 30 at the Westin Hotel Copley Place, indicates that 2004 was a year of progress for women as directors and executive officers. Fifty-five (55) percent of companies in the Census have women on their board, up from 50.0 percent in 2003. Eleven of the companies included in both the 2003 and 2004 Census reports added a woman director this past year; no companies reduced the number of women directors. Fortune 500 companies in Massachusetts now have a better record of appointing women as directors than their counterparts nationwide. The number of companies with executive officers increased from 44 percent to 50 percent this year.

The news is not all positive, however. Women continue to fill just 9.5 percent of the board seats in the 100 largest public companies in Massachusetts, up from 9.0 percent in 2003. Moreover, 45 percent of the companies in the Census continue to operate with all-male boards. The companies with no women directors sell everything from shoes to pianos, from fabric to ice cream, from software to worldwide construction operations. Women of color, included in the 2004 Census for the first time, filled just 1.1 percent of the board seats in these companies. In addition, the share of women executive officers in these 100 companies remained constant at 9.2 percent.

"There is still a need for greater recognition of the talents of senior business and professional women and the significant value they can bring to the boardrooms and executive suites of Massachusetts companies," said Patricia Flynn, Bentley Trustee Professor of Economics and Management.

Co-author of the study, Bentley Management Professor Susan Adams, notes that "The research shows strong links between women on corporate boards, profitability and good corporate governance."

Indeed, women's economic clout is at an all-time high: women now make 83 percent of all purchases of goods and services, accounting for over $5 trillion a year in consumer and business spending.


Key Findings



  • Women hold 9.5 percent of the 839 board seatsof the 100 largest public companies inMassachusetts, up from 9.0 percent last year.
  • Fifty-five (55.0 percent) of these companies have at least one woman director, compared to 50.0 percent a year ago.
  • Of the companies appearing in both the 2003 and 2004 Census reports, 11 increased their number of women directors over the past year, while none reduced their number of women directors.
  • Just over one percent (1.1 percent) of the board seats at these companies are filled by women of color. For Fortune 500 firms, 2.7 percent of the board seats in Massachusetts are filled by women of color, compared to 3.0 percent nationwide.


Executive Officers:

  • Women account for 9.2 percent of the 749 executive officers at these companies, the same percentage as a year ago.
  • Half (50.0 percent) of these companies have at least one woman executive officer, compared to 44.0 percent last year.
  • Of the companies appearing in both the 2003 and 2004 Census reports, 12 added women executive officers, whileseven companies reduced their number of women executive officers.
  • Twenty-seven (27.0 percent) of these companies have at least one woman among the five most highly compensated executives.


Directors and Executive Officers:

  • Over one-quarter (27.0 percent) of these companies have no women at either the board level or in the executive officer ranks. This does show an improvement from 35.0 percent a year ago.


Firm Size Makes a Difference:

  • Larger companies, on average, have a greater number and greater share of board members who are women than do smaller companies.
  • Eighty-seven (87.0 percent) of the companies with revenues over $1 billion have at least one woman director. In contrast, among companies with revenues below $500 million, only 42.3 percent have at least one woman director.
  • Women hold 15.2 percent of the board seats in the Massachusetts Fortune 500 companies, compared to 12.4 percent last year, and 13.6 percent nationwide.


Industry Also Makes a Difference:

  • The Consumer Goods sector has the highest percentage of women directors with 14.0 percent, followed by Retail/Restaurant companies with 11.6 percent. The Technology and Financial Services sectors have the lowest representation of women directors at 7.7 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.
  • In terms of companies with at least one woman director, the Life Sciences sector leads with 71.4 percent, followed by the Retail/Restaurant sector with 62.5 percent. Companies in the Technology sector are least likely to have a woman director (42.3 percent).


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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