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Initiatives and Interesting Statistics

You can volunteer your time, money and/or resources to assist these particular initiatives, created to increase the number of women on boards in the United States. We will keep you updated on the latest progress with bullet-point stats from a variety of sources.

Have a great initiative or statistic to share? Please let us know.


California State Resolution

In 2013, the California Legislature was the first of any state in the nation to pass a resolution urging all publicly held corporations in the state to place more women on their boards by the end of December, 2016. Illinois is following suit with a similar resolution already passing the House and due to the Senate in the fall of 2015.

2020 Women on Boards

A national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020.

Every Other One: More Women on Corporate Boards

If prominent corporations adopt a target of recruiting women in one of every two board seat openings due to normal retirements and existing female seats are retained, CED believes that 30% participation would likely occur by 2018.

Project Starfish

A process to help ensure that board opportunities for qualified women are not lost, but rather benefit others.

Stanford Women on Boards

The goal of SWB is to increase the representation of Stanford alumnae on corporate boards, increase Stanford women’s readiness for board service, and further develop the capabilities and influence of Stanford women already on boards.

Women on Boards Initiative

Inspired to address gender inequity and its impact on the business landscape, Forté partnered with its sponsoring business schools and companies to advance women into corporate board positions.

The Thirty Percent Coalition

The Thirty Percent Coalition is a unique and groundbreaking national organization of over 70 members committed to the goal of women holding 30% of board seats across public companies.

Director Diversity Initiative

The objective of the Director Diversity Initiative is to encourage boards of directors of public companies to increase their gender, racial, and ethnic diversity.


A national non-profit that works to increase the representation of women lawyers on corporate boards through events that provide education and networking opportunities around the issue of women on boards.


A national consortium whose mission is to increase the number of women appointed to corporate boards and to the executive suite.

Idaho Boards Project

The purpose of this initiative is to document and analyze the gender balance on public boards and commissions within Idaho, including  cities, counties to state organizations.

Interesting Statistics


Slow Growth

The share of female board members in the Russell 3000 index, which includes most public companies on major U.S. stock exchanges, increased to 20% in the second quarter of this year from 19% the previous quarter, according to Equilar Inc., a governance-data firm. When Equilar began tracking the measure in late 2016, 15% of board seats were filled by women. The Wall Street Journal

The California law, signed last September by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, requires all publicly traded companies with headquarters in the state to have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019 or face fines. So far, 68% of the 94 public companies in the state with all-male boards when the law passed have added at least one woman, according to Athena Alliance, a nonprofit that helps women land board directorships. The Wall Street Journal

Nearly 42% of new directors appointed in the second quarter to Russell 3000 boards were women, according to Equilar. That is down from 47% during the first quarter of the year. Of the women filling open board seats in the second quarter, 53% were serving on their first corporate board, while the remainder were veterans. The Wall Street Journal

Recent research has shown that boards tend to practice a sort of “twokenism,” diversifying to a point where they meet what’s considered the norm and then appear to do less to raise the numbers. The Washington Post

After years of ‘glacial change,’ women now hold more than 1 in 4 corporate board seats.The Washington Post

After being stuck at 16 percent for several years, the percentage of women-held board seats in the S&P 500 now reaches nearly 27 percent, according to data from ISS Analytics, the data arm of the proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services.

Perhaps most notable is that all-male boards among S&P 500 companies have become a nearly extinct species. In 2009, there were 56 firms in the S&P 500 that did not include any women. As of June 28, there was one. The Washington Post

Copart, an online vehicle auction company based in Dallas, has the final all-male board in the S&P 500, according to data from ISS Analytics. But it has said it intends to fill a board vacancy with a “highly qualified, accomplished woman this year.”The Washington Post

For the first time, all S&P 500 companies have at least one female director.Bloomberg

The final stretch of progress has been slow. In 2000, about 86% of S&P 500 companies had at least one women on their board according to Spencer Stuart. The last 14% of companies have taken almost 20 years to close the gap. – Bloomberg

Despite the progress made among new appointees, women still only represent 22.5% of all Fortune 500 board directors. That’s up from roughly 16% in 2010, according to a separate report from the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte. – CNN

MSCI (a provider of market indexes and portfolio and risk management tools and services) found that 64% of companies in emerging markets had at least one female director last year, up from 59.6% in 2017. It also cited the U.S.’s “modest progress” last year, which saw women occupy 23.4% of all directorships, an increase of 89 board seats in absolute terms. At the same time, 11 U.S. firms still had all-male boards as of mid-October, making the U.S. an outlier among developed nations outside of Asia. – Fortune

The ultimate goal of those who advocate for more women on boards is gender parity — meaning the number of women and men directors are evenly split. As of March this year, only seven companies in the Fortune 500 had achieved that, according to data from Equilar: Viacom (VIA), Ulta Beauty (ULTA), Casey’s General Stores (CASY), Ascena Retail Group (ASNA), CBS (CBS), Best Buy (BBY), Omnicom Group (OMC). – CNN

A new study out from MSCI showed that among the 2,700 companies in its All Country World Index, a slightly larger share of firms—78.7%—had at least one female director as of mid-October 2018 than in 2017 (77.4%). That incremental progress means that it will take until 2029 for companies in the index to reach 30% female representation in the boardroom—two years longer than MSCI projected in 2015. – Fortune

Last year, of the 462 newly appointed Fortune 500 board members, 183 of them — or 40% — were women, according to a new report from executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. – CNN

Heidrick expects women will be named to Fortune 500 boards in equal numbers as men by 2023. – CNN

Large companies — those worth $5 billion or more — appointed nearly three times as many women as men to their boards of directors during the second and third quarters last year, showing just how eager they are to diversify their governance teams and comply with mounting pressure for equality. – The Washington Post

If every state were to adopt California’s lead, U.S. companies in the Russell 3000 would need to open up 3,732 board seats for women within a few years. The number of women on these boards nationally would increase by almost 75 percent. – Bloomberg

Board Composition & Member Profiles

The number of all-male boards is much higher among smaller companies: Among companies in the Russell 3000 index, which also includes smaller firms, 329 have no women on the board.The Washington Post

We compared the career paths of 100 female public company CEOs with those of a cohort of men in similar industry sectors and company sizes. We found two significant differences between the career paths of men and women who lead public companies. Prior to becoming a public company CEO:

Women were significantly more likely to serve on a corporate board than men. More than half of the women (59%) served on a public company board, as compared with 42% of the men. Almost twice as many women (23%) as men (12%) served on a private company board.

For those recruited from the outside, women were almost twice as likely to be promoted from a non-CEO title as men. More than half the outsider men appointed to lead a public company (52%) were CEOs of private companies or divisions of public companies, as compared with just 18% of women. HBR

Our research, coupled with recent growth trends for women appointed to serve on corporate boards, may signal a significant increase of women in the CEO talent pool in the years to come. The 2018 U.S. Spencer Stuart Board Index found that women represent a record-breaking 40% of the incoming class of board directors (up from 36% in 2017). Women now represent 24% of all directors, up from 22% in 2017. Further, 17% of the incoming class are 50 years old or younger, up slightly from 16% last year, and more than half of these next-gen directors (53%) are women. HBR

Corporate boards have long been bastions of men. Directors, who are ultimately responsible for a company’s direction and supervise the chief executive officer, are often current or retired executives themselves—also a very male crowd. For many people in business and finance, it’s a coveted role, a part-time gig that confers access to a wide network of powerful people as well as annual compensation that can run to $300,000 or more. –Bloomberg

A new California law requires most companies in the state to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of this year. By the end of 2021, they’ll need three. According to a new Bloomberg analysis, this sea change could offer women 692 seats at the table, enough to cause a measurable shift in the gender balance of U.S. company boards overall. – Bloomberg

Boards Need Diversity

Racially and ethnically diverse candidates — men and women combined — constituted 23% of new board appointees last year, unchanged from the all-time high in 2017. And they account for a much smaller share of all Fortune 500 board directors. – CNN

International Boardroom Statistics

Women hold 12.7 percent of CFO roles globally – nearly three times that of CEO positions. Deloitte

Women hold only 5.3 percent of board chair positions and 4.4 percent of CEO roles globally. – Deloitte

Women hold 16.9 percent of board seats worldwide. – Deloitte

2018 Interesting Statistics

Men vs. Women

Which companies and industries in the Russell 3000 Index have gender equity (or even close to full representation for women)? FactSet analyzed the board and leadership makeup of companies on the market-capitalization-weighted equity index. Spoiler alert: none of the stats suggest gender diversity is coming into balance overall, however, there were some bright spots.

  • The percentage of companies with zero female board members has fallen to 18%
  • 47% have boards comprised of less than 15% female members
  • 14 companies have female-majority boards
  • 22 companies have equal male/female representation
  • Although only 151 companies in the Russell 3000 have a female CEO (5.1%) this is up from 143 in March 2017 Fast Company

We examined the shareholder benefits from increasing the number of female board members, as well as the gender diversity of boards among new IPOs. Here, we take a deeper dive into this data at a sector level, to see how companies in different industries compare in terms of female representation at the CEO level and at the board of directors’ level.

In our initial analysis in March 2017, we found that 23% of companies within the Russell 3000 had zero female board members and 58% had boards composed of less than 15% female members. At that time, there were just five companies with female-majority boards: Tootsie Roll, American Water Works Company, Connecticut Water Service, Hologic, and Navient. The good news is that the percentage of companies with zero female board members has fallen to 18% and now 47% have boards comprised of less than 15% female members. Today, 14 companies have female-majority boards, and an additional 22 companies have 50/50 male/female representation. We also looked at gender diversity at the CEO level. We found that 151 companies in the Russell 3000 have a female CEO, just 5.1%. This is up from 143 in March 2017. Fast Company

Russell Sector No. of companies Male % Female %
Technology 339 332 97.9% 8 2.4%
Health Care 465 437 94.0% 28 6.0%
Consumer Discretionary 420 384 91.4% 37 8.8%
Consumer Staples 100 97 97.0% 3 3.0%
Energy 175 167 95.4% 8 4.6%
Materials & Processing 190 179 94.2% 11 5.8%
Producer Durables 380 362 95.3% 19 5.0%
Financial Services 782 756 96.7% 26 3.3%
Utilities 99 88 88.9% 11 11.1%
Notes: Where CEO or top leadership function is shared by male leaders, company is counted once.
Where CEO or top leadership function is shared by male and female leaders, company is counted once in each category.
Data as of September 19, 2018

One of the most interesting things to come out of our analysis was the strong correlation between having a female CEO and having high female representation on the board of directors. Of the 521 companies in the Russell 3000 that have zero female board members, only four have female CEOs, and one of those four, IES Holdings, Inc., has a male co-CEO as well. That means that .6% of companies without female board members have female CEOs, compared to 6% of companies with at least one female board member. The percent of companies with female CEOs increases to 9% when 20% or more of board members are female and to a third when 40% or more are female. We found that this correlation held true across all sectors of the Russell 3000. Fast Company

Russell Sector No. of companies No. with 0 Women % Avg. % Male Avg. % Female
Technology 339 68 20.1% 83.9 16.1
Health Care 465 115 24.7% 84.7 15.3
Consumer Discretionary 420 49 11.7% 78.6 21.4
Consumer Staples 100 15 15.0% 80.8 19.2
Energy 175 54 30.9% 88.3 11.7
Materials & Processing 190 30 15.8% 82.8 17.2
Producer Durables 380 73 19.2% 83.6 16.4
Financial Services 782 107 13.7% 83.1 16.9
Utilities 99 10 10.1% 78.0 22.0
Data as of September 19, 2018
Source: FactSet and Fast Company

State Street says it’s running out of patience with the nearly 1,000 companies around the world that haven’t yet responded to pressure to add at least one woman to their boards of directors. – Bloomberg

From January to May, women made up 31 percent of new board directors at 3,000 of the largest publicly traded U.S. companies, according to a data analysis by corporate governance firm Institutional Shareholder Services. That’s the highest percentage of female board seats in at least a decade. – CNBC

About a dozen of the largest U.S. companies have yet to add even a single female director to their board. – CNBC

Of the 94 REIT directors newly elected during the spring (2018) proxy season, 49—or 52%—are women, according to a study by Ferguson Partners, a professional services firm specializing in executive and board recruitment. It was the first time men comprised less than the majority of the new directors. – The Wall Street Journal

In 2018, 32% of newly elected directors in the Russell 3000 are women. In 2017, 41% of newly elected directors to REIT boards were women. – The Wall Street Journal

Women accounted for 38.3% of all newly named directors at Fortune 500 companies in 2017. – Quartz at Work

Overall, just 17.5% of all directors on REIT boards are women, up from 14% in 2017. There are 32 REITs, or 16.7% of the 192 REITs, with no women board members, down from 21% in 2017, according to Ferguson Partners. The majority of the REITs, 69.3%, have one or two women on their boards.  – The Wall Street Journal

Slow Growth

Despite calls for increasing gender diversity on public company boards, progress has been scant. On average, only 16.5 percent of board seats of companies in the Russell 3000 index are held by women. But 53 percent of boards now have a formal goal to diversify their composition. Of those boards, 70 percent report that their diversity mandate is driven by the need to enhance cognitive diversity of boards, while 49 percent indicate that increased diversity is a moral imperative. – NACD

Out of 1,228 companies identified globally by State Street that lack a female board member, 301 have added a woman and another 28 have committed to do so. – Bloomberg

Board Composition & Member Profiles

Nearly half, 49.5 percent, of boards (in the Russell 3000 index) now have two or more female directors. Gender diversity on boards of these companies is strongly correlated with company size. Larger public companies tend to have larger boards and more seats occupied by women. Notwithstanding their size, these organizations also give a larger percentage of board seats to women. An organization with $10 billion or more in revenue is likely to have 12 or more board seats, 2 or 3 of which will be occupied by women. Contrast this with organizations under $2 billion in market capitalization, which on average have a board size of nine individuals with one seat occupied by a woman. – NACD

In the past year, the number of board seats held by women in the Russell 3000 has increased from 15 percent to 16.5 percent. The largest portion of this increase is within larger organizations. NACD

Boards Need Diversity

In order to reap the benefits of gender diversity, at least three women are needed to change the way the board is run and the way women are able to share their insights.  – The Associated Press

Growth Opportunities for Boardrooms
Egon Zehnder believes the approach of business must change if we are to make real progress on gender diversity: Pick for Potential – our work with businesses has found that certain personal traits are better indicators of success than a lengthy CV Make Leadership Accountable – a focus on diversity has to be a core part of a company’s strategy, and an explicit goal set by senior leaders and directors Raise Your Ambitions: Focus on Three – until a board achieves the critical mass of three women, little is likely to change. Directors must be proactive in spotting female talent, and consider board term limits or more active turnover Train the Board for Success – chairs and directors must prepare the board for the fact that diversity of perspectives and opinions could make doing the work of the board less efficient, but more effective.  – The Associated Press

International Boardroom Statistics

Norway, France, and Belgium all have gender quotas and have reached 40.1%, 37.2%, and 30.5% female representation on boards, respectively.   – Deloitte

A new study out this morning from MSCI (a provider of market indexes and portfolio and risk management tools and services) found that among the 2,700 companies in its All Country World Index, a slightly larger share of firms—78.7%—had at least one female director as of mid-October 2018 than in 2017 (77.4%). That incremental progress means that it will take until 2029 for companies in the index to reach 30% female representation in the boardroom—two years longer than MSCI projected in 2015.  The Broadsheet

MSCI did praise firms in emerging markets for their progress: 64% of such companies had at least one female director last year, up from 59.6% in 2017. It also cited the U.S.’s “modest progress” last year, which saw women occupy 23.4% of all directorships, an increase of 89 board seats in absolute terms. At the same time, 11 U.S. firms still had all-male boards as of mid-October, making the U.S. an outlier among developed nations outside of Asia. Australia and Canada for instance, each had just one firm with an all-male board; Germany had two. Companies in Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, meanwhile, accounted for the majority of boards with no female representation. The Broadsheet

Egon Zehnder, the world’s leadership advisory firm released the results of its 2018 Global Board Diversity Tracker. The study shows the accelerating growth seen in female directors in Western Europe is now levelling off, and growth elsewhere remains sluggish, suggesting gender parity on boards may never be reached at the current pace. – The Associated Press

The research, examining data from 1610 public companies with market caps above €7bn in 44 different countries, shows that despite the slow improvement in the number of women on boards, nearly three quarters of all new board positions worldwide still go to men. – The Associated Press

The number of women on boards continues to increase, but is losing momentum: 20.4% of board seats of the largest companies globally are held by women, up from 18.5% in 2016. France is the global leader, with 42% female board members, versus less than 6% in Hungary, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the UAE. In 2018, new board appointments made up 11.4% of all board positions globally, of which 27.0% were women, an improvement on the figure from the last report of 24.1%. This means that just 3.1% of all board positions are held by new female board members. However, appointments of female directors to boards varies heavily by region. Of new board appointments in 2018, 35% were women in Australasia, Western Europe, the US and Canada, against 16.7% in South America and 12.5% in Asia. In the US the overall percentage of female directors has risen by just 3.2% since 2012. – The Associated Press

While there has been significant progress in recent years, many companies are far from the “magic number” of three female directors: In 19 of the 44 countries studied, all of the major large cap companies have at least one female director—up from 15 countries in 2016, and just 8 in 2012. Yet in only 13 of 44 countries do the largest companies average three or more women per board, with five countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy) averaging four or more. All of these countries except for Sweden operate under some form of quota system. Western Europe is leading the way with an average of 3.8 women per board, followed by Australia/New Zealand with 2.7, and North America third with 2.5. – The Associated Press

Despite growing representation in the boardroom, the number of female executives and especially CEOs remains stubbornly low: Women make up just 3.7% of worldwide CEO positions, and that number has not changed over the past two years. Only 5.6% of executive board positions are held by women In 23 countries – including Norway, Germany and Canada that lead on other diversity metrics – there are NO female CEOs in the large set of companies studied.  – The Associated Press

Women still account for fewer than 5 per cent of the chief executive positions in the US, UK and Europe, according to new research that suggests efforts to diversify corporate leadership may be stalling. Financial Times

The study by Heidrick & Struggles, an executive search firm, found that women held 4.9 per cent of the top roles across 13 countries, with female representation in the chief executive position ranging from 6.9 per cent in the US to zero in Denmark and Italy. Financial Times

In some countries, the percentage has fallen in the past year. In the UK, the number of women holding FTSE 100 chief executive positions has slipped from seven to six, just below the number of CEOs named Dave or David. The number of FTSE 350 chief executives dropped from 15 to 12. Financial Times

The Heidrick report follows a study published in October in which the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute found that women made up 40 per cent of all employees and 35 per cent of all managers in the S&P 1500 US companies that disclose diversity metrics, but just 20 per cent of directors and 6 per cent of chief executives.  Financial Times

A paper published earlier this year by a group of academics led by Vishal Gupta of the University of Alabama found that female chief executives of publicly traded companies were more likely than their male peers to come under threat from activist investors. Financial Times

Interesting Statistics Archives