Women today are involved in the business world like never before, from serving as the primary breadwinners in their families to becoming entrepreneurs by launching their own companies – a bullet that 25 million Americans have bitten over the last two years, according to Babson College. The latest feather in the cap of women? Filling more than a third of recently vacated board seats among S&P 500 companies.
"Women filled 36% of open board seats in 2017."
Last year, approximately 400 board of director seats became available for businesses that comprise the S&P 500 Index. Of these, women were selected to fill 36 percent of them, Bloomberg reported, based on data tallied by executive search and leadership consulting firm Spencer Stuart. In fact, when paired with ethnic minorities, women and people of color represented a majority of the open S&P 500 board seats that opened in 2017.
Spencer Stuart's Julie Dahm, who leads the North American division of the global executive recruitment firm, told the news agency that women are clearly ascending the ladder of recognition and success.
"It's a step in the right direction, for sure, and it's the first time we've gone over 50 percent," Dahm explained. "Boards are looking for people who are younger and with different skill sets and that does open the boardroom for more women and minorities."
Revenues have doubled for women business owners
Women's representation in the entrepreneurial universe seems to be growing at an unabated rate. For instance, since the late 1990s, women-owned businesses have more than doubled – up 114 percent – while their revenues have flourished by 103 percent, according to numbers released late last year by American Express. Based on U.S. Census data, women-owned businesses now number in excess of 11.6 million, providing gainful employment to roughly 9 million people.
Janice Reals Ellig, CEO of the Ellig Group, told Bloomberg that women are assuming larger and more high-profile positions in virtually every industry.
"There's a momentum that's really occurring and you see it in the papers, you see it in the press, you see it on [television], you see it all over, " Ellig noted. "So it really is a business imperative."
Advocates contend that room for improvement still exists, however, noting women make around 70 cents for every $1 men earn. But a growing percentage of people believe that pay parity will narrow in the not-too-distant future. Indeed, in a poll released by Bank of America this past summer, more than 50 percent of the 1,000 small-business owners polled said they expect women will be paid just as much as their male counterparts who are employed in similar positions and may even pass them by in terms of leadership on executive boards or councils.
As for their continued ascendance among S&P 500 companies, turnover on corporate boards is notoriously slow, so the strides women have made recently potentially would have been made sooner, Bloomberg reported. In 2017, for instance, an average of less than one board-of-director seat became available among S&P 500 businesses, based on calculations from Spencer Stuart, resulting in women representing 22 percent of board seats. In 2016, women's representation was 21 percent.
"There's still just very little turnover, so even though the percentage of new directors that are younger and that are diverse has gone up, it's off a low base," Daum told Bloomberg. "There's a high degree of interest in diversity, but it's still very slow change."
15% more women are in construction today than in the 1980s."
Women with double-digit growth in several industries
Certain industries are seeing a rather speedy influx of women representation. These include construction (up 15 percent compared to 1997), arts, entertainment and recreation (12 percent) and other services (12 percent), according to American Express' 7th Annual State of Women-Owned Businesses report. "Other services" include pet care and beauty salons, specifically nail and hair. Of the 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., approximately 23 percent are in other services, translating to around to 2.3 million.
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