January 18, 2010 | last updated March 24, 2012 8:50 pm

Corporate Boardrooms Still Lack Women

The 2009 statistics from organizations around the country are coming in and it's not a pretty picture.

In Massachusetts, The Boston Club reports that of the 100 largest companies only 6.8 percent of executive officers are women (down from 10.9 percent in 2007).

The percentage of company directors that are women is 11.3, also down from 11.5 percent in 2007. In fact, 39 companies have no women directors at all. And only 1.2 percent of director seats are held by women of color.

The Graduate School of Management at the University of California Davis reports that within the 400 largest companies, women hold:

• 9.4 percent of board seats (46 percent have no women directors; another 34 percent have just one).

• 11.6 percent of executive officer positions.

Meanwhile, reporting conducted by the Chicago Women's Network study of the 50 largest companies shows that:

• Women directors decreased from 15 percent in 2008 to 14.1 percent.

• Companies with no women executive officers grew to 17 from 16. And 34 percent of the 50 largest companies have no women officers.

• The percentage of women of color in business leadership is down. In all, 2.7 percent of all directors are women of color, down from 3.1 percent last year and 3.5 percent in 2007.

Finding A Solution

Why are we seeing no progress for women either as C-suite executives or on corporate boards of directors?

What I have seen as a major difference in gender dynamics is how senior executive men and women mentor junior level individuals.

There seems to be a more natural instinctive fit for a senior level man to informally mentor a junior level man. They don't call it mentoring — it's more of a coach/athlete or father/son dynamic that naturally develops.

As skilled as women are at interpersonal skills, we tend to lack the strategic networking skills to reach out and mentor junior women. There is nothing more inspirational or powerful to career-minded professional women than hearing a senior level woman share stories of how she got to the top and what skills she needed to get there.

I believe the fix is two-fold on the part of both women executives and women who are just starting out in their careers.

It is the responsibility of senior executive women to reach out to more junior level women to provide informal mentoring, specifically to share what skills they need to get to the top. Most people will agree that although we've come a long way, there's still a long way to go for women's advancement.

I believe it is the responsibility for junior level women to "take the baton" that has been passed to them by previous generations of leading women and to continue to build a legacy of advancing women in the workplace.

Victoria Waterman is president of Leading Women Mass. and is chairman of the board of Worcester-based Girls Inc. She can be reached at vwaterman@leadingwomen.biz.


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