Where The Women Are

There is no shortage of female candidates for board seats—if one is looking in the right places.

A growing body of research shows a connection between gender-diverse boards and enhanced company performance. Businesses with more women on their boards can experience, among other benefits, greater returns on equity, sales and invested capital. Despite these advantages, women remain far underrepresented in the boardroom, even with recent gains. (See CBM’s Special Report: The Changing Face of America’s Boardrooms)

Those who say greater diversity isn’t possible often contend that the problem lies with supply—namely, that too few women have the necessary experience and qualifications to serve on corporate boards. That argument only applies if companies set overly stringent criteria, such as only seeking candidates who are current or former directors or CEOs of publicly traded companies. However, if companies cast a broad net that includes proven female leaders in a variety of roles and from multiple sectors, the supply problem disappears.

To further accelerate progress, companies should consider adopting the simple, yet effective, “every other one” approach. The name says it all: Fill every other vacant seat with a woman. If companies do so while retaining the existing female seats on their boards, gender parity will soon follow. Businesses gain a competitive edge while realizing the potential of countless women leaders.