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Companies With Female Execs Have More Progressive Boards

January 24, 2017

Though there are still few women at the top of the corporate ladder, the companies that choose to employ them are among the more progressive when it comes to women in the boardroom. According to an Equilar study conducted for The Wall Street Journal, there were 13 S&P 500 companies that had a female President or Chief Operating Officer as of their 2016 proxy statements.

Since those statements were filed, a lot has happened. As the WSJ detailed in its story, the President or COO roles are often stepping stones to the top position at the company. Indeed, several of the women Equilar uncovered in its initial study were promoted to CEO, including Adena Friedman of Nasdaq and Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, both of whom were hand-picked for the chief executive role.

Ms. Hollub was announced as the CEO successor a full year prior to her ascension to the role, and Ms. Friedman rejoined Nasdaq in 2015 as “heir apparent” to the leading role, according to The New York Times. And while Sheryl Sandberg may not end up as CEO of Facebook—outside a scenario where the wild rumors come true and Mark Zuckerberg becomes President of the United States—she has been inextricably associated with the company’s success over the years. Overall, just eight of the 13 women are still in their President or COO role, leaving for a variety of different reasons.

Using data from its BoardEdge platform, Equilar analyzed the board connections of these women. The study included those firms where they are executives as well as the other boards of directors they serve. There is slight overlap between the two sets of companies, with Ms. Sandberg of Facebook being the only woman other than the aforementioned CEOs who also served on the board of directors where she is employed.

In addition to their own boards, these women featured in the Wall Street Journal study served on 10 other boards total—including S&P 500 companies Disney, U.S. Bancorp and Valero—among other well-known entities like Tesla and AMC Networks.

For a complete list of the women included in the study, their board connections and current roles, please see the table at the end of this post.

Equilar found that an identical percentage of women accounted for board seats at these two sets of companies—females comprised 23.9% of director roles at the 13 companies where they served as President or COO as well as the 10 where they serve on the board. By comparison, 21.3% of S&P 500 boards overall were women, signifying that these companies with women in leadership tend to be more progressive when it comes to board diversity.


In addition, the average age on the boards where these women were either executives in 2016 or currently serve as board members was also identical at 61 years, which compares to an average of 62.5 years at S&P 500 companies overall.

One area where these boards broke when it comes to composition is in terms of average tenure. Among the companies where these women serve as executives, board members served an average of 8.5 years, in line with the S&P 500 average of 8.6 years. Meanwhile, average tenure among the 10 boards where these women serve as directors was 6.6 years.


The data in this post is powered by Equilar BoardEdge, which includes information on more than 150,000 directors and executives from public companies. The database includes more than a dozen categories about each board member’s background and leadership experience. The platform’s defining feature is a networking tool that clearly displays how board members are connected to each other, as well as the Equilar Diversity Network.

To learn more about upcoming board leadership events, please visit

For more information on Equilar’s research and data analysis, please contact Dan Marcec, Director of Content & Communications at

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