Women weep(!) for Fortune 500 boardsDecember 9, 2009: 6:01 AM ET
by Patricia Sellers
The stats out from Catalyst, the women-in-business trackers whose annual report is out today, aren't much to shout about. In 2009, women held 15.2% of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. That's unchanged from 2008.
But may we shout about something else? It's hard to fathom that 61 Fortune 500 companies still do not have a single woman on their boards. But it's true. And we wonder:
How can Dollar General (DG), the bottom-dollar value retailer that targets frugal women shoppers, be so parsimonious when it comes to female directors? There's not one on the Dollar General board.
And how can the king of chocolate, Hershey (HSY)--whose products are so many a woman's weakness--have not a single female representative in the boardroom? I can just hear the banter as Hershey's high-testosterone directors plot their war to win Cadbury (CBY) from the clutches of Kraft Foods' (KFT) Irene Rosenfeld--a tough CEO, if there ever was one.
The tally of Fortune 500 companies with no female board members also includes John Malone's Liberty Media (LINTA), Philip Morris International (PMI), and Virgin Media, part of Richard Branson's Virgin empire (VMED).
And while you might assume that Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) has a woman on board in Lynn R. Blodgett, don't be fooled. Blodgett, who is ACS's CEO, is definitely a Mr.
There are many compelling reasons for companies to place women on their boards. Catalyst finds that companies with three or more women directors, on average, significantly outperform boards with the fewest women directors--as I detailed in "Women on boards (Not!)" in the Fortune Most Powerful Women issue in 2007.
One guy who has seen the light: Steve Jobs. His Apple (AAPL) board used to be all male. Early last year, Jobs lured Avon (AVP) CEO Andrea Jung, who is also on the General Electric (GE) board, to enter his boardroom sanctum. Jung jumped at the chance, and you can read her take on being an Apple director here.