Women at the Top

Article excerpt

In 1982 Juanita Kreps, a former secretary of commerce and vice president emeritus of Duke University, spoke at a dinner hosted by Catalyst, a nonprofit women's research group based in New York.

At the dinner Dr. Kreps made a prediction: "A decade from now women directors will be more numerous, more knowledgeable about business matters, more widely represented on board committees, younger, and probably more vocal.... They will handle routine corporate issues with ease.... Many will be chief executive officers."

Kreps was right: More women are board directors today than a decade or so ago. In fact, women held 10.2 percent of seats on boards of Fortune 500 companies in 1996, breaking through the 10 percent barrier for the first time, according to a recently released Catalyst report. The number of women on Fortune 500 boards rose from 9.5 percent in 1995, 8.7 percent in 1994, and 8.3 percent in 1993. That's good news. Besides what they contribute to the board itself, female board members can be good role models for other women in the company. They show female recruits that upward mobility can be limitless. …