European Corporate Boards Pluck American Women to Fill Slots Abroad

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — After making significant strides in the past 30 years, women's progress in corporate boardrooms and executive suites seems to have slowed, according to the annual Spencer Stuart Board Index that examines the state of corporate governance among S&P 500 companies.

About 61% of S&P 500 companies have two or more women on the board, up from 55% in 2007 and 38% in 2002 while only 20% have three or more women as members on their corporate boards.

"America is at the forefront of equal rights and anti-discrimination when it comes to equal pay and women's right, but that doesn't translate into gender diversity or gender equity when it comes to fortune 500 and 1000 companies," said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women's Advantage, a program that directs the development of women professionals through focused leadership, mentoring and networking programs.

Despite acknowledgement by boards that diversity in the boardroom generally results in increased value for shareholders, the pace of change in the U.S. is discouraging. This year's study disclosed that women now account for just 17% of independent directors, which is up from 16% in 2007 and 12% in 2002.

"I think all of us who care about corporate governance and board performance believe that we collectively have much more work to do to increase the representation of women on boards and senior leadership teams, both here and around the world," said Julie Hembrock Daum, co-leader of Spencer Stuart's North American Board & CEO Practice.

About 9% of the S&P 500 companies still have no female directors while twenty of the S&P 500 CEOs in 2012 were women, which is just 4% of the total.