According to Equilar data, 18.9% of S&P 500 committees are chaired by women. That figure compares to 21.3% of all director seats being held by females, and a slightly higher percentage of women—22.2%—account for S&P 500 committee memberships.
The general composition of boards has become a regular topic of conversation among governance professionals, particularly in the wake of shareholder activism. Digging deeper into the details of where key decisions are made helps create context for further examination of the board diversity issue.
Overall, board leadership positions tilt heavily in favor of male directors, according to a recent Equilar report. In 2016, 7.6% of non-executive chair, CEO/Chair or lead director roles were occupied by women, up from 5.6% in 2012.
Though it still trails overall prevalence, the increase of women in committee leadership roles has made progress over that same period and far outpaces the top positions. In 2016, 23.9% of nominating and governance chairs were females, up from 21.9% in 2012. While the percentage of female compensation committee chairs was the lowest, it also increased the most, up from 10.9% in 2012 to 15.0% in 2016. In addition, female audit committee chairs saw a small increase in prevalence from 16.2% to 18.7% from 2012 to 2016. This overall growth in female committee leadership tracks with the natural progression of the increasing prevalence of female directors overall. As females become more experienced, they have taken on more responsibility in the boardroom, including leading audit, compensation and governance committees. Theoretically, that should translate to the top positions as well.
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