Two's company, three's a crowd

When it comes to female board members, tokenism is not good enough. A new report reveals that although having one or two women is definitely better than none, women's contributions can really be felt when there are three or more female board members.

by Wellesley Centers for Women
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

The findings of the Wellesely Centers [for Women come after extensive interviews with women directors, CEOs and corporate secretaries, both male and female, of Fortune 1000 companies.

Researchers Vicki Kramer, Alison Konrad and Sumru Erkut found that when a woman sat on her own, her views could be easily ignored or glossed over. When two women sat on the board of a company, they were able to work together and encourage each other but were still very much perceived as gender representatives rather than individual.

Kramer et al argue that it is when three or more women sat on the board of a company that their contributions reached critical mass. First, women often disagreed with each other, which reinforced their potential as individuals. Second, they brought a different set of skills to the board.

Women broaden board discussions by including the concerns of female stakeholders. They are also more persistent than men on difficult issues, and more collaborative when it comes to leadership.

Yet, despite all these observations, only 76 Fortune 500 companies have got more than three or more women directors, and women only make up 14.7% of Fortune 500 board seats.

Source: Critical Mass on corporate boards: why three or more women enhance governance
Vicki Kramer, Alison Konrad and Sumru Erkut
Wellesley Centers for Women

Review by Emilie Filou

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