When Women Lead: Women Leaders Positively Impact Boardroom Diversity

Our flagship reports, “When Women Lead” (2020 Women on Boards 2016, 2017) showed that when women hold positions of leadership (CEO, Board Chair and Nominating Chair) boards are more gender diverse than boards of companies led by men. The reports looked at companies in the Fortune 1000 index for 2015 and 2016.

We revisited the topic this year, looking at companies in the 2017 Russell 3000 Index, from our newly expanded Gender Diversity Directory. The results are similar to last year’s findings: Of the 2871 active companies, 125 have female CEOs.  The percentage of women on their boards is 30.2%, double that of male CEOs’ boards at 15.4%.  Eighty percent of the companies with female CEOs are Winning “W” Companies at 20% or greater. Only 37% of all the Russell companies are “W” companies.
One hundred and ten companies have female board chairs. The percentage of women on their boards is 28.1% compared to male board chairs at 15.5%.

In Russell 3000 companies, there are 4,082 board seats held by 3110 unique women: 2242 (72%) of the women are on only one Russell 3000 board; 574 (18.5%) are on two boards; 225 (7.2%) on three boards; 64 (2.1%) on 4 boards; and 5 (.2%) on 5 boards. Many nominating committees of Russell 3000 companies have looked beyond a small group of “elite” women directors and found new, untapped talent.

Our research shows that women in corporate leadership positions impact the diversity of the boards of their companies. We call on male leaders to learn from their female colleagues and reap the benefits that a truly diverse board brings. 

To view the full report, click here.