Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Corporate News Finds Few Women on Board

Run Date: 12/18/08
By Saabira Chaudhuri
WeNews correspondent

The outpouring of bad U.S. corporate news has produced a news gallery of mainly male faces. There's a matching shortage of women on corporate boards, although Rupert Murdoch did tap opera singer Natalie Bancroft for News Corporation last year.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Headlines with the word bailout or economic crisis don't cast any glory, but they do show who's mainly in charge of U.S. big business.
And the answer is men.
Rick Wagoner heads up General Motors, the Detroit giant on the brink of bankruptcy. Edward Liddy is top executive at American International Group, which found itself at the epicenter of the home loan crisis. Bernard L. Madoff is the manager of a fictional fund dazzling and shaking onlookers by the sheer magnitude--$50 billion--of its losses.
Beneath the news surface, that same male domination is found on corporate boards, which are required to keep companies on the right track.
Look, for instance, at the automakers now in the limelight as they struggle for public help. Women comprise less than 17 percent of directors.
Women's presence on the corporate boards of the Fortune 500--an annual ranking by the magazine of the country's leading companies--inched up in the first four years of this decade.
But over the past three years that progress stagnated, with the composition of women in those influential and high-status posts reaching 14 percent and apparently refusing to budge, according to surveys conducted by Catalyst, the New York nonprofit research organization that focuses on women in business.
"The numbers are very low, but what I think is even more significant is that the increases have become trifling," says Sheila Wellington, clinical professor of management at New York University's Stern School of Business, and former president of Catalyst.
Wellington says that, as in the early 1990s, many companies began taking the view that "women's advancement is a done deal; it's taken care of."
She points to the danger of tokenism. Many companies, she says, consider their boards diverse when they appoint a woman or two. For that reason it's important to continue disseminating hard data about representation.

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