Thursday, December 3, 2009

Women on Boards — Bigtime

Here is one incredible statistic: In the third quarter of 2009, 43% of newly appointed directors were women.

This is a chart-busting number. Directors & Boards has been tracking new board appointments by quarter since 1994. We publish the quarterly data in each edition of the journal in a section called the Directors Roster. In the early years of our director data tracking, it was not unusual for the percentage of new directors who were women to be in the low teens or single digits even. That was the case in 1996, for example, when women represented only 9% of all new board appointments.

It wasn't until the fourth quarter of 2005 that the percentage of women named to corporate boards broke above 20%. It stayed in the low to mid-20% range for the next several years, occasionally dipping back into the teens for a quarter or two.

Then we broke through to an impressive new high in the first quarter of 2009, when 38% of new directors were women. I honestly thought this might have been an anomalous report, and that we wouldn't see this number surpassed this year — or perhaps ever! The number of women appointees did dip to 32% in the second quarter, but that was still way above trendline.

Now here we are witnessing women being almost one out of two board appointments in the July through September period.

Melissa Payner-Gregor (pictured), Frances D. Fergusson, and Nancy E. Cooper are representative of these new appointments. Payner-Gregor is the CEO of Internet retailer Bluefly Inc. who has joined the board of Destination Maternity Corp., a designer and retailer of maternity clothing; Fergusson is the retired president of Vassar College who is now a director of Pfizer Inc.; and Cooper is EVP and CFO of CA Inc. (formerly Computer Associates) who has been added to the board of Teradata Corp., the $2 billion data warehousing business.

There is something happening. While national surveys still show a shockingly poor representation of women on boards, our Directors Roster data looks to be an early indicator of big changes afoot in the board recruiting market. Stay tuned to this data.