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Catalyst Charts Growth of Women on America's Corporate Boards

317 of the Fortune 1000 have Multiple Women Board Directors Making Catalyst's Blue Ribbon Board

In growing numbers, women are pushing open the doors to America's corporate board rooms and taking a seat at the table of the largest companies in the world. In the 2001 Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 1000, Catalyst found that women now hold 12.4% of all board seats in the F500, up from 11.2% in 1999 and 10.9% of all board seats in the F1000, up from 10% in 1999.

"Catalyst measures the number of women board directors because in business, what gets measured gets done," said Catalyst President Sheila Wellington. "We have seen a 25.8% increase in the number of Fortune 500 companies with women on their boards since we started counting. Between 1993 and 1996 the number jumped from 345 companies with at least one woman on their board to 417. The pace the slowed over the last five years and there are now 434 companies."

"If the rate of change remains constant in the F500, women will occupy 25% of the board seats by 2027," said Wellington. "We have not cracked the glass ceiling yet, but women are slowly chipping away at it. One company and one seat at a time."

Each year since 1993, Catalyst has conducted a census of the F500 to count how many women serve on corporate boards. Each census serves as a marker for corporate America of accomplishment and of work yet to be done. In this 2001 Census, sponsored by Sara Lee Corporation, Catalyst provides for the second time an expanded look at corporate governance in all F1000 companies. Last year, these companies employed over 29 million people and generated more than 8 trillion dollars in revenue.

"To recognize companies heading toward critical mass, Catalyst developed the Blue Ribbon Board. This is the list of F1000 companies having more than 2 women on their board of directors," said Wellington. "Although slow, change is happening. In 1999 the Catalyst Blue Ribbon Board had 296 companies. This year the number has risen to 317 companies."

Women Making a Difference: F500 vs. F501-1000

Corporate America is beginning to take notice that women in the boardroom do make a difference and the F500 companies are far ahead of the F501-1000 companies in understanding the benefits of having a woman's point of view when making corporate decisions. In the first year of the Catalyst census, 155 of the F500 companies had no women board directors. In Catalyst's ninth year of counting, only 67 of the F500 still have no women.

"In expanding the census to the F501-1000 companies, Catalyst is working to focus the attention of corporate America's smaller companies on improving women's presence in the board room. In the second survey of this group, the number of companies with at least one woman board director has dropped from 62% (303) companies to 60.6% (310) companies," said Wellington. "Furthermore, the percent of companies with multiple women has decreased from 100 to 95 companies over the last two years."

Women of Color on Corporate Boards

Women of color comprise about 2% of the F1000 boards seats and 18.1 % of the board seats held by all women. They hold 178 of the 8,941 seats among the 839 companies for which Catalyst could confirm race and ethnicity. Of the 178 seats

  • 131 seats are held by African American Women
  • 30 seats are held by Hispanic Women
  • 15 seats are held by Asian American women ü 2 seats are classified as "other

Women on Corporate Boards in the F500: Regional Change Between 1996 and 2001

When Catalyst looked at changes by state and region over the last five years, there were surprising differences. The nationwide numbers show:

  • Increase in the percent of Board Seats Held by Women from 10.2 % in 1996 to 12.4% in 2001.
  • Increase in the number of Seats Held by Women from 626 in 1996 to 735 in 2001.
  • Increase in the number of Companies with at Least One Woman Director from 417 in 1996 to 434 in 2001.

"Catalyst works with corporations through our Corporate Board Placement service to identify woman for corporate boards around the country," said Wellington. "Companies are looking for woman who have profit and loss experience with an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to contribute strategic advice to company decisions."

The sponsor of this study for the fourth year in a row is the Sara Lee Corporation.

About Catalyst: Catalyst is a nonprofit research and advisory organization working to advance women in business and the professions, with offices in New York, California and Toronto. The leading source of information on women in business for the past four decades, Catalyst has the knowledge and tools that help employers and women maximize their potential. Our solutions-oriented approach-through research, Advisory Services, Corporate Board Placement, and the Catalyst Award-has earned the confidence of global business leaders. For additional information or to obtain a copy of this report, please visit our web site at or call 212-514-7600.