Although women moved into the workforce in great numbers in the 1980s, they still have to catch up to men in terms of leadership positions in corporate America. The New York human resources firm Catalyst found that women hold 16.9 percent of officer positions in American corporations, and only 11 percent of senior leadership line roles.
The question is, why are there so few women corporate board members? Those who have a proclivity to assume sex discrimination might fear the worst. Others might simply assume that relatively few qualified women were available for board slots, or that boards with women performed poorly in the marketplace.
Earlier this month the London School of Economics released a new study showing that publicly-traded companies with more women on the boards of directors do better in terms of firm management but worse in terms of economic performance. The study, entitled Women in the Boardroom and Their Impact on Governance and Performance, was just published in the Journal of Financial Economics.
The authors, economists Renee Adams of the University of Queensland, Australia, and Daniel Ferreira, of the London School of Economics, conclude that additional women improve the governance of the firm. Female board members were more likely to be assigned to audit, nominating, and corporate governance committees and they had higher attendance at board meetings. Chief executive officers of companies with female directors are held to a higher standard of accountability.