For all the progress women have made in establishing themselves as business leaders, the Financial Women's Association has found a surprising lack of momentum in a key area of corporate America: the boardroom.
A biannual study by the FWA shows that in 2011, women held just 17.7 percent of board seats at 100 of the largest public companies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. That's just slightly higher than the 16.6 percent statistic from the group's 2007 study, and actually lower than the 17.8 percent of seats held by women in 2009.
What's more, 10 companies in the most recent survey had no female directors; only four companies in the 2007 study had all-male boards.
"If one imagines that women will enter the boardroom in greater numbers as they begin to increase their representation in the C-suite, the pool of qualified candidates would appear to be growing," the FWA acknowledged in its report. Indeed, women comprised 15.4 percent of 147 senior executive roles examined in the most recent survey, up from 15 percent in 2009 and 9.7 percent in 2007.
However, women accounted for only 10.5 percent of the most highly compensated executives at the companies, which was little changed from the 9.8 percent figure from 2009. Considering that data point, along with the findings of a 2011 Conference Board study showing that 60 percent of corporate board seats are held by executives with experience as a CEO or CFO or in a comparable senior role, "it is no wonder that smart, talented women still find themselves struggling to find their way into the boardroom," the FWA concludes.
The FWA, founded in 1956, provides educational programs and networking opportunities for women in business and finance. Its 2011 FWA 100 study is based on regulatory disclosures by 100 of the largest public companies in the metropolitan New York area, including New York City; Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties in New York state; and nearby counties in Connecticut and northern New Jersey.
The full study can be accessed here.