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December 11, 2012

Progress toward female leadership remains 'glacial'

(Continued)

On corporate boards, 51 companies in the Fortune 500 had all-male directors as of June 30, Catalyst data show.

Growth in female board representation has stagnated even as data from the Credit Suisse Research Institute show that companies perform better when they have women directors. Shares of companies valued at more than $10 billion that had female board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide over a period of six years, according to the report.

"Companies with women at the top, in executive positions and on the board, are being shown to be more profitable," said Betty Spence, president of New York-based National Association for Female Executives, which provides resources for female professionals and business owners. Progress in increasing representation "is paltry in comparison to the talent that is out there and is not being tapped," Spence said in a phone interview.

Companies that already have at least one female director are more likely to appoint more women than those with all-male boards, according to a separate report from Ernst & Young LLP released Monday. While women are joining U.S. company boards at an increasing rate, with 40 percent of current female directors attaining their positions within the last five years, change has been incremental, Ernst & Young said.

To achieve greater gender parity, Catalyst will build a directory of CEO-backed female board candidates and encourage member companies to both sponsor women for addition and draw from the list when making their own director nominations.

"It's not fun to write the same headline year after year," said Brande Stellings, vice president of corporate board services at Catalyst. "We wanted to come up with a solution."

Catalyst derives its data from the Securities and Exchange Commission and National Association of Insurance Commissioners filings.

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