“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.”
That’s a quote from Marie Curie, who in 1903 became the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work in the field of radioactivity, which led to significant advances in cancer treatment through radiation therapy.
Mrs. Curie would know firsthand that progress isn’t swift or easy. Despite being part of a research team that included her husband, Pierre Curie, and another physicist, Marie Curie was initially not going to receive a Nobel Prize. When Mr. Curie caught wind of this and complained, the award was given to all three scientists rather than just the two men.
For women in the modern business world, this type of story probably rings all too true, and many likely can relate to Mrs. Curie’s quote. Female representation in corporate boardrooms has improved, but there’s still a ways to go and there is no shortage of obstacles or bias.
Let’s look at some recent news for a case in point. Bloomberg reported that for the first time ever, women hold at least 30 percent of seats on a majority of S&P 500 boards.
First, there’s no doubt that this is good news, as it signifies that more and more major companies are diversifying their leadership ranks. However, on an average-sized board of 11 people, women are only taking 3.3 seats, according to the same report. Female leaders are in the room, but they’re definitely still outnumbered.
I’ve written before about how mobility can help women leaders break through, and the stats I just cited only energize me more to tackle this important issue. It’s not time to celebrate — it’s time to keep pushing upward.
Looking for a place to continue this conversation and find supportive peers? I encourage you to join the LinkedIn group “Making HERstory,” which I recently launched with my friend and HR leader Peggy Smith. The group is dedicated to supporting and empowering women in and out of the corporate world. It’s a safe space for conversations about working, family dynamics, professional and personal relationships, and more. I hope to chat with you there!
The number of index companies with at least 30% female directors rose to 251 in July, as women gained a net 13 seats, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average number of women directors was unchanged at 3.3, out of an average board size of 11. “While some of the countries are actually getting there -- and it’s absolutely fantastic that America is, because of the size of the economy and the influence of American companies around the world -- there’s still a long way to get to that 30% tipping point in most parts of the world,” said Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club in London, which advocates for more women on boards and c-suites.