Last summer, I wrote about a conference I attended on women and corporate boards. Last weekend, I read a piece in the Sunday Washington Post about British CEO Helena Morrisseys efforts to get more women on boards in the UK.
Morrissey, the CEO of Newton Investment Management, is someone I would like to meet. She is 45, oversees $76 billion in assets and 400 employees, and has nine children ranging in age from 2 to 19! She has been instrumental in forming the 30 Percent Club to press British companies to have 30% of board members be women.
(I must admit I had heard about the work of the Thirty Percent Club from my friend Baroness Mary Goudie.) Norway, Spain and France have adopted quotas for boards; Morrissey opposes them.
However we get there, we need more women on corporate boards. According to Catalyst, only 15.2% of Fortune 500 board members are women. Governance Metrics International found that only 12.2% of US board seats were held by women, and in the UK, 8.5% of board members are women. In contrast, in Norway, 34% of board seats are held by women, in Sweden 23.9%, in Finland 23% and in the Philippines 19%.
Early research has found that Fortune 500 companies with higher percentages of women board directors on average financially outperform companies with low percentages of women on boards. Additionally, companies with more women on boards also have more women in senior management positions, and women board members are more likely to champion tough issues in board decision making. In these times of economic uncertainly and globalization, boards are critical to strategic decision making and increasing competitiveness. Increasing the number of women on boards makes sense to me.