The biggest U.S. companies, which have been promoting women directors amid evidence that gender diversity can lead to better financial results, give those women fewer leadership roles once they’re on the board, according to a study.
Among lead independent directors in the S&P 1500 in 2015, 57 were female compared with 539 who were men, according to the report, written by Yaron Nili, an assistant professor of law at the University of Wisconsin Law School. That was up from 28 women and 434 men acting as lead independent director in 2010.
When it comes to having a leadership role performing the duties that make up much of a board’s work, though, the evidence is less encouraging. Men outnumber women in leadership roles on all board committees by more than four to one, according to an analysis of data compiled by BoardEx, a relationship mapping service of TheStreet Inc.There are 821 women who hold a total of 977 committee chair positions for companies in the S&P SmallCap 600, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P 500, compared with 3,993 men who hold a total of 4,595 committee chair positions, according to BoardEx data.”
A truly diverse board gives women more than a seat at the table — it grants them the ability to have a voice and an impact,” Nili wrote in his study, which is available online, and expected to be published next year in the Indiana Law Journal. “Gender diversity discourse … must look beyond the numbers of female directors on the board and account for the roles that these directors take once appointed.”