Women underrepresented on US boards too

A PROXY Governance review of Russell 3000 companies holding their 2009 annual meeting prior to July 1 reveals considerable disparity in female board representation across sectors. Overall, women make up 10.7 percent of directors in the Russell 3000, but just 5.6 percent and 5.1 percent of directors in the energy and semiconductor sectors, respectively. The numbers translate to just one in three boards in those sectors having a female director — compared to 61 percent for the Russell 3000 as a whole. Even for S&P 500 companies, the two sectors remain clear laggards, with female board representation at 8.9 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively, compared to an index average of 15.5 percent.

The electric utility and household and personal care product sectors populate the other end of the spectrum. Taking the Russell 3000, women make up 17.1 percent of directors in the power generation sector, while 97.6 percent of these companies have boards with at least one female director and 65.5 percent – double the index’s average – have at least two female members. The highest level of female directorships is found in the household and personal care sector – 19.8 percent and 28.1 percent for Russell 3000 and S&P 500 companies, respectively. The sector, historically known for its relatively high levels of female participation in corporate decision making, also has the largest percentage of female CEOs – 16.7 percent, more than four times the Russell 3000 average.

Overall, levels of female directorships representation for the both Russell 3000 and S&P 500 were unmoved from a year earlier: 10.7 percent (or about the same number of directors called either John or Robert) and 15.5 percent, respectively.

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