15% of the board seats in America belong to women.
Men and women don’t agree on why there are so few women on corporate boards.
Only about 10% of the world’s board seats belong to women, according to research by Deloitte. In the United States, the numbers are slightly better: About 15% of board seats belong to women, according to research on 3,400 companies by Credit Suisse.
This means that at the current rate boards in the U.S. are adding women, gender parity won’t happen until 2055, a study by corporate research firm Equilar found. And there are still 738 U.S. companies that don’t have any women on their boards.
Whatever the reasons for this, one thing is clear: male and female executives perceive this issue in very different ways, according to a survey released Wednesday of 505 high-level business executives across the nation, conducted by polling organization YouGov and commissioned by the nonprofit Women’s Forum of New York.
Most men don’t think gender inequality in the boardroom is a problem, but most women do. Less than half (43%) of male business executives agree that gender inequality in the boardroom is a problem, compared with 74% of female business executives. This may be because men do now see women in the boardrooms, while they saw it less frequently in the past, says Janice Ellig, the chairperson of the WFNY. And men are far more likely to think that gender parity in the boardroom has already happened: 30% of men agree with this statement, compared to 15% of women.
Most men don’t think the ‘old boy’s club’ is a major barrier to women being considered for a board seat, but most women do. While 57% of women think that company culture — including men choosing men for advancement opportunities and the “old boy’s club” — are major barriers to women getting board seats, only 39% of men think the same. This may be because some of the men are in that boys club, and it thus may be harder for them to see how that could impact outsiders, Ellig says. Women are also more likely to believe that people perceiving them as more committed to their family than to work is a big barrier to getting a board seat: 41% of women say this, compared to 29% of men.
Men and women are about equally likely to think a lack of a mentor or sponsor might hold women back. About one-third of men and women say this is a major barrier to women being considering for a boardroom position. They’re also about equally as likely to say that a lack of personal relationships to vouch for a female execs trustworthiness is a major barrier (roughly one in 10 say this).
In some ways, women are more hopeful that change will happen than men are. About 47% of female executives say that gender parity in the boardroom will happen in their lifetime, compared to 40% of men. Women are also more likely to say gender parity in the C-suite will happen in their lifetime (49% vs. 39%) and that the gender pay gap will be eliminated in their lifetime (44% vs. 36%). Women may be more hopeful in some ways, because now more than ever they are “very determined to make change happen,” says Ellig.
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