Report: Women underrepresented on companies’ board

Where are all the corporate ladies?

A report released by The Leadership Foundry, a division of Fairfax-based Women in Technology, found that women in publicly traded companies are underrepresented on their organizations’ board of directors. The company commissioned its first report, “Women Board Directors in Virginia and Washington, D.C,” this year.

Of the 172 publicly traded companies headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area that were analyzed for the report, 97 percent did not achieve the “critical mass” of three or more women board members, according to the report. The report was conducted by American University’s Kogod School of Business.

“We were not surprised but a little bit disappointed to see that the numbers are so low,” said Vicki Warker, chairwoman of the corporate board committee of Women in Technology.

In Virginia, 160 publicly traded companies were analyzed. Women hold 101 board seats of the 1,318 board seats in the commonwealth, an 8 percent rate. Women hold 14 of the 109 board seats in Washington, D.C., or 13 percent.

The arts, entertainment and recreation, and health care and social assistance industries have the most women board members in Virginia. The finance and insurance sectors have 43 women sitting on their boards, the most in Washington, D.C. The information and manufacturing sectors come in second with 13 women on their boards respectively. The aforementioned industries also support the most publicly traded companies.

“Considering the fact that the Washington, D.C., area is arguably a nexus for leadership, you would think that the region would be pretty progressive,” Warker said.

The report states that women on a company’s board increases diversity of opinion, expands the range of strategic input, provides female role models and mentors, positively influences decision making, improves the image of companies with stakeholder groups and ensures better boardroom behavior.

A number of studies have shown that companies with more women on their boards improve financially, Warker said.

Women in Technology hopes to provide a vehicle to increase the number of women serving on area boards by running a pilot program that will send selected women through a corporate training program. The program will focus on giving the women the opportunity to see what it would take to get the knowledge, skills and connections to serve in their first corporate board seats.

In turn, the business community will gain greater diversity and perhaps better financial performance, Warker said.

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This article was first published by Hannah Hager on

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