What glass ceiling?

New research in the US finds that companies with female directors help those women below them to succeed.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

New research on Fortune 500 companies in 2001 and 2006 found that female executives working in US corporates have a much better chance of breaking through into senior management if the company they work for has several female directors on its board.

Conducted by Catalyst, the research found that companies with two or more women board directors in 2001 would have 28% more women corporate officers in 2006 compared with companies that had one woman board director in 2001.

The reasons as to why this might be are multifarious: that companies with more women board directors have more inclusive workplace cultures, policies and programmes that support women’s advancement; that women board directors serve as role models to women in the pipeline and demonstrate that women can fulfil their highest ambitions; and that women board directors are a powerful antidote to damaging stereotypes that devalue women’s abilities.

Said Ilene Lang, Catalyst’s president: ‘Women can crack the glass ceiling from both the top and the bottom. It matters a lot who is at the top. People feel it. When diversity and inclusion are embraced by the senior-most level of the company, it really does filter down.’

This comes as no surprise to MT. We’ve known for a long time that the more senior women you have in a business, the more likely it is that younger women will make it to the top but it’s research like this that really makes the case watertight. Not only that but the correlation with greater numbers of senior women and better financial performance has also been made.

The matter of having more senior women in business is, as they say, a no-brainer – and hence why smarter companies are doing something about it. It’s the dumb businesses that we really need to worry about.

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