All-male boards: Why do they still exist?

All-male boards: Why do they still exist?

All-male boards: Why do they still exist? There’s really no explanation yet many public companies continue to ignore the writing on the wall.

Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s WP article about women and leadership, Fortune’s Caroline Fairchild reveals that there are 23 Fortune 500 companies with all-male boards. That’s slightly less than 5%. Yet in Norway women represent almost 40% of the total board seats on OMX-listed companies.

Norway’s had diversity quotas in corporate boardrooms since 2008. Long ago, Norwegians realized that women deserved to play a bigger role in how public companies governed themselves. After all, women represent a much greater portion of post-secondary graduates than men yet their representation farther up the corporate ladder is woefully inadequate.

The quotas, some speculated, would lead to all kinds of problems. Yet, the adoption of these quotas has led to some very talented women joining the boards for some of Norway’s biggest companies. That’s not to say that an old boy’s club doesn’t exist in Norway but in the six years since the quotas have come into play, it’s become far less oppressive.

It’s understandable that certain businesses might not attract as many women to their boardrooms such as those in the energy sector which are traditionally male dominated but even this statement could be construed as sexist. There surely are plenty of women who are interested in grittier businesses just as there are men who enjoy female dominated industries such as human resources or fashion.

The reality is that women represent more than half the consumers in the world and that should be reflected in the corporate governance of our largest corporations. With 23% of Fortune 500 boards having no women and another 28% with just one (these boards usually have at least 12 directors), women clearly aren’t being given their due.

The previous paragraph is especially meaningful because studies show that it takes three female board members to make a difference in corporate performance and governance. With more than 250 of the Fortune 500 companies utilizing one or fewer women directors, there’s still a huge change in mindset that needs to take place.

A good start would be to eliminate all-male boards for public companies. They shouldn’t exist.

It’s one quota, WP speculates, that most financial advisors would get behind.