More women executives break into the boardroom

As fragile as glass is, the “glass ceiling” has shown distressing durability since the term was coined in the mid-’80s.

Most surveys reflect the glacial pace of change for women attaining the upper ranks of management in the nation’s biggest corporations. Only 15 of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 are women.

But the picture is changing in the boardroom.

Directors & Boards magazine, published in Philadelphia, has been tracking appointments to boards of directors for 15 years. In the last two years, one-quarter of the new board members have been women, according to editor James Kristie.

And for the first quarter of 2009? Thirty-eight percent of new independent directors were women - the highest percentage the magazine’s quarterly survey has seen.

In fact, the annual average tended to be in the teens until the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate-governance law in 2002, according to Kristie.

That was when the stock exchanges began requiring their listed companies to add more independent directors. Is there any bigger pool of potential directors than women executives?

In the first three months of 2009, women were named to fill 38 of the 101 seats on the corporate boards tracked by Directors & Boards. Those companies range from huge (Microsoft Corp., which added Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College) to tiny (Met-Pro Corp., which tapped Judith Spires, president of Acme Markets Inc.).


If we just look at the offer, we have the Treasury and the UAW forgiving $20 billion of debt and getting 89 percent of ownership, and the bondholders are forgiving $27 billion and getting 10 percent ownership. If anyone thinks that’s fair, they’re not a GM bondholder.

- Mark Modica, a business manager at a Saturn dealership in Chalfont and General Motors bondholder, during a Bloomberg Television interview about the terms of the U.S. government’s reorganization plan for the automaker.