Last fall it sure looked like we were closing the year on a high. Our 2016 Gender Diversity Index showed we were within a hair’s reach of achieving our goal of women holding 20% or more corporate boards seats. We looked forward to our 5th Annual National Conversation on Board Diversity, where a record breaking 2500 people registered to attend events in cities across the country to hear about women’s progress in the boardroom. We were poised to make history by electing the first woman president.
We all know what happened. As the inauguration approaches and confirmation hearings begin, those who will govern us are beginning to look like they belong in the hit show Mad Men: stale, pale and male. Four female appointments have been named to the cabinet, Nikki Hailey, Ambassador to the UN, Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, Linda McMahon, Small Business Administration and Elaine Chao, Transportation.
It’s easy in this “I can’t believe it happened” moment to forget some of the progress we’ve made. According to our 2016 Gender Diversity Index, women hold 19.7% of the board seats in Fortune 1000 companies. Women had a net gain of 74 board seats in 2016 compared with a net loss of 71 seats for men. One hundred and twenty companies added women to their board last year, and of those 70 did so by increasing the size of their board to accommodate women rather than waiting for a man to step down.