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Catalyst Census Finds Eighty-Six Percent of Fortune 500 Companies Have Women Directors

Women Gain Just One-Half Percent Since 1997

Four hundred twenty-nine of the Fortune 500 companies have women directors, and more than one-third, or 188 companies, boast multiple women directors, according to a Catalyst study released today. The 1998 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500 reports a 29 percent increase over the past five years in companies with two or more women directors (up from 146 in 1993), and a 79 percent increase in the past four years in the number of companies with three or more women (from 19 in 1994 to 34 in 1998).

According to John H. Bryan, Chairman and CEO, Sara Lee Corporation, the sponsor of the Catalyst Census, "We have seen an increase in the number of companies with women directors, and especially with multiple women directors, since 1993. The Catalyst Census clearly is recognized as one of the factors making the difference."

Women hold 671 board seats out of a total of 6,064, or 11.1 percent of Fortune 500 board seats, according to the 1998 Catalyst Census. This is an increase of 0.5 percent since 1997 when women held 643, or 10.6 percent, of 6,081 board seats. Since 1994, the number of board seats held by women on Fortune 500 boards has increased by 126 seats, or 23 percent. Catalyst projects that women directors will reach parity in Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms in the year 2064, based on the average rate of change (0.6 percent) in the percent of women directors since 1993, when Catalyst first published its Census of Women Board Directors.

Only one Fortune 500 board currently has gender parity: Golden West Financial Corporation, of Oakland, CA, which first attained this status in 1997. This year, Golden West has moved beyond parity, with five women and four men directors. Three other Fortune 500 companies are nearing parity, with 40 percent or more women directors: Avon Products, Inc. (46 percent); Beverly Enterprises (44 percent); and Gannett Co., Inc. (40 percent).

"Diverse boards make sense—in 1998 and beyond—given the increasingly competitive, increasingly volatile global marketplace," said Catalyst President Sheila Wellington. "Boards with multiple women directors make sense, particularly as we find ourselves in a primarily knowledge-based economy, where women are as capable as men. It's time for companies to take the necessary measures to ensure that women's board representation occurs at a significantly faster rate."

Catalyst reports virtually no change in the representation of women among inside directors (officers of a corporation who also serve on its board) since 1995, when it first began examining this important benchmark. In 1998, women make up 1.1 percent (13 of a total of 1,173) of inside director seats, up negligibly since 1995, when women held 11 (0.9 percent) of those seats. The number of women-of-color directors has moved slightly upwards: 58 of all women directors are women of color, up from 53 in 1996, when Catalyst first counted this category.

This year for the first time, Catalyst analyzed board committee leadership and membership, finding that women directors are most likely to be found on audit and social/corporate responsibility committees (14 and 15 percent, respectively) and least likely to be found on executive committees (6 percent). Women directors are least likely to chair executive committees (2 percent) and most likely to chair social/corporate responsibility committees (21 percent).

In 1998 over one-third of women directors—34 percent—have corporate experience, up from 27 percent last year. More telling, nearly half—47 percent—of the 64 new women directors have corporate experience.

The Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 500, published annually by Catalyst since 1993, provides the number and names of women board members of Fortune 500 companies as of the cut-off date of March 31, 1998. The Catalyst Census also provides industry and state-by-state analyses.

Catalyst is the nonprofit research and advisory organization that works with business to advance women. Its dual mission is to enable professional women to achieve their maximum potential and to help employers capitalize fully on the talents of their female employees. Since 1977, Catalyst Corporate Board Placement has worked with over 200 leading corporations to recruit women for their boards of directors. For more information about Catalyst, please visit our website at or call 212-514-7600.