Why are women gaining more board seats abroad than in America?


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Women Gain Board Seats – Abroad”, announced that women were gaining more board seats, but not within the United States.  This story went on to explain how other countries like Finland, Australia and the United Kingdom have put plans into place to stimulate growth in the percentage of women sitting on boards. I was surprised to read that the US doesn’t have any initiates to move forward in this area.

Increasing board seats for a particular group doesn’t always have to be based on a quota system, which many fear. In Australia, a coalition recruited prominent businessmen that now push for this publicly. The UK similarly uses an encouragement model. And in Finland, their Chamber of Commerce and the Helsinki Stock Exchange drafted a "comply or explain" rule requiring listed companies to include directors of both genders or explain why not.

I find it reassuring to know that within the US, there are also actions sought other than quotas. The article explained that, “The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires businesses to disclose how they consider diversity in nominating directors and the effectiveness of those policies; gender diversity proponents want the agency to revamp that 2009 rule by focusing on women.”

It’s equally important in the US to increasingly prepare women for this role. In another recent WSJ article, this time on the word “bossy” and what it conveys to young girls, Sheryl Sandberg shared,

From a very young age, I liked to organize—the toys in my room, neighborhood play sessions, clubs at school. When I was in junior high and running for class vice president, one of my teachers pulled my best friend aside to warn her not to follow my example: "Nobody likes a bossy girl," the teacher warned. "You should find a new friend who will be a better influence on you."

The article goes on to explain how women are discouraged from entering leadership roles from an early age through this type of mentality.

The role of women has come a long way since the days when there were no opportunities to vote or work outside the home, but these are indications that a catalyst is needed in order to move further forward. I encourage you to learn more, stay on top of what’s happening on this front, and take a closer look at how your actions in the voting booth, as a customer or purchaser, or as a parent can have a positive impact.