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In the Nation's Interest

Making the Case for More Women on Boards

A company is only as good as its employees, and just last year a wealth of talented leadership was overlooked.  Women made up a mere 17% of Fortune 500 board seats, despite accounting for close to half the workforce.  For American business to succeed economically and command the public’s trust, it must better incorporate more women on boards and other leadership positions.

To make this happen, the Committee for Economic Development recommends, among other measures, that companies filling board seats make it a priority to work with search firms that include ample women candidates.  To ensure that CEOs and nominating committees know where to find board-ready women, CED has made available a reference guide including databases of board-ready leaders from several organizations.

While search firms can help externally, it’s imperative that business executives change company culture internally.  Companies should set targets to increase the number of women and consider publically disclosing their recruitment outcomes.   Mentoring programs, too, can help the best and brightest women rise through the ranks of companies so they can one day be a part of leading them. 

At CED, we highlight executives that have successfully made their companies diverse and inclusive, like Dan Akerson of General Motors and public relations CEO Richard Edelman.

Most importantly, we’ve been leading by example.  Our own Board of Trustees includes over thirty women, including talented leaders like Beth Brooke of Ernst & Young and Shideh Bina of Insigniam.

Progress is within reach.  If fewer than 200 more women had been added to Fortune 500 board seats last year, a 20% nationwide goal would have been set.  If these companies can achieve Fortune 500 status, they certainly can fulfill this goal as well.