Program Would Put More Women on Corporate Boards

By Aliah D. Wright Mar 12, 2013
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Fifteen female leaders from around the world, including one human resource professional, have been chose​n as fellows for an initiative designed to prepare female leaders to serve on corporate boards.

The International Women’s Forum (IWF) and the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) launched On the Board: Advancing Women’s Corporate Board Leadership on Feb. 21, 2013.

It’s been nearly 100 years since Marjorie Merriweather Post (head of the Postum Cereal Co.) became one of the first women appointed to a corporate board, yet women still lag in board appointments. According to the GWSB, the number of women added to corporate boards averages 16 per year. Since 2003, the percentage of women on corporate boards has hovered around 16 percent for Fortune 500 companies and 17.5 percent for Fortune 1,000 companies.

“Taking those numbers into account, it immediately becomes clear why On the Board will be truly revolutionary,” said IWF President Deedee Corradini. “When we place all 15 fellows on corporate boards we will nearly double the advances made yearly for the last 81 years. This is monumental progress.”

In addition to Gail McKee, chief human resources officer at Towers Watson, the fellows include:

  • Caryl Athanasiu, executive vice president and chief operational risk officer for Wells Fargo & Company.
  • Shelley Bird, executive vice president of public affairs at Cardinal Health.
  • Barbara Byrne, vice chairman of the investment banking division at Barclays.
  • Lauri Fitz-Pegado, a partner in the Livingston Group.
  • Laura Hwang, president of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations.
  • Deborah Lentz, senior vice president of customer service and logistics at Kraft Foods.
  • Isabel Linares, senior counselor for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC Spain).
  • Penny McIntyre, president of the Newell Consumer Group.
  • Nancy Philippart, executive in residence at the engineering ventures program at Wayne State University.
  • Shoba Purushothaman, founder of Training Ventures.
  • Sandra Sanchez y Oldenhage, president and CEO of Amgen Mexico.
  • Anita M. Sands, group managing director and head of change leadership at UBS Wealth Management Americas.
  • Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation and senior vice president of Charles Schwab & Co. Inc.
  • Sandra M. Stash; global senior vice president for health, safety, security, environment and operational assurance at Talisman Energy.

Each fellow will receive advanced training in board-level leadership practice, corporate strategy and finance, leadership communication and regulatory compliance, value creation, risk assessments, ethical and responsible decision-making, crisis management and corporate finance.

In addition, they’ll receive financial management training to increase their competitiveness and skills for service on board-level audit and compensation committees, according to the GWSB. The fellowship program is organized around residencies in Washington, D.C., throughout 2013 and will include coaching sessions, training and development programs, and social and networking events.

While programs like these can help, female leaders need to be more proactive when it comes to corporate appointments, one expert said. “It’s not just women asking women” to help them move into the boardroom, noted James Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “It is women being forcible and saying, ‘Here are my qualifications; I’d like you to keep me in mind for a board spot.’ ”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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