October 26, 2006
Wellesley, MA–A critical mass of three or more women serving on a corporate board can cause a fundamental change in the boardroom and enhance corporate governance, according to a new report published by the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW).
Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance is based on interviews with 50 women directors, 12 CEOs and seven corporate secretaries from Fortune 1000 companies. The report finds that corporations with three or more women on their boards tend to benefit most from women’s contributions, including: providing different perspectives; expanding the content of board discussion; raising issues that pertain to multiple stakeholders; raising tough issues; and using their interpersonal skills to positively influence board processes.
The report authors—a consultant, a business school professor, and a senior researcher at WCW—conclude that "diversity is an issue of governance and that increasing the representation of women on every board is a good governance issue."
One of the study’s authors is a member of the board of the InterOrganization Network (ION), a national network of eight executive women’s organizations working to increase the advancement of women on corporate boards.
"After years of working to increase the number of companies with women board members and reporting annually on the slow rate of change, ION members are focusing more attention on getting multiple women on each board," said Vicki Kramer. "This study strengthens their case for the importance of moving beyond tokenism."
The study was funded by the TIAA-CREF Institute as well as several foundations and individual contributors. It is the first research study that tries to answer the question of whether it makes a difference how many women serve on a board.
For more than 30 years, the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) has been a driving force — both behind the scenes and in the spotlight — promoting positive change for women and men, girls and boys. WCW brings together an interdisciplinary community of scholars engaged in research, training, analysis, and action. The executive summary can be downloaded from www.wcwonline.org/pdf/CriticalMassExecSummary.pdf. The full report on the Critical Mass project can be purchased from the WCW publications office by calling 781-283-2510 or via the website at http://www.wcwonline.org/o-main.php.
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