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(Businessweek) To Get Women on Company Boards, Make Men Leave


If you’re baffled at why it’s proving so difficult to get women on corporate boards, you’re not alone. State treasurers are threatening to pull pension funds from laggard companies. Nine nations are enraged by a European Union plan to punish companies that don’t fill at least 40 percent of their board seats with women. The issue was debated on Sept. 13 at the Women’s Forum in New York, and it will get the spotlight again in Washington on Sept. 20 at the SAIS Global Conference on Women in the Boardroom.

Is this really such a hard problem to fix? These aren’t people you have to groom for years to fill the top ranks. You just have to ask someone. The risks are low. A bad executive hire can derail your business; a bad director just detracts from the value of the board. Plenty of smart women would love a chance to make almost a quarter of a million dollars for a few weeks of meaningful work with high-powered peers.

Yet here we are, in 2012, and only 16.1 percent of Fortune 500 directors are women. About 29 percent of U.S. companies have no women on their boards, according to GMI Ratings. Not one. Even such brands as Urban Outfitters (URBN), Burger King (BKW), and Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) seem unfazed about marketing to women under all-male boards. (None returned e-mails and calls for comment.)


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