The survey comes from theBoardlist, which compiles lists of women who are qualified to sit on corporate boards, and also helps search committees find them. About 100 Boardlist candidates (some of whom already sit on not-for-profit, for-profit, or advisory boards, and the vast majority of whom live in the U.S.) were asked a number of questions about their experiences in business, and also about the fact that so few women serve on corporate boards. According to not-for-profit Catalyst, about 20 percent of board seats at S&P 500 companies are held by women.
No More Queen Bees
Those who believe that women in leadership roles don’t do enough to help other women will be heartened by the results. Ninety-nine percent of the respondents said they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that “it is my duty to pay it forward and help mentor and support younger women in my company or industry.”
The female board candidates did believe that they had been judged by a different standard than their male peers at various points in their careers–83 percent either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, but they also said, by a wide margin, that opportunities for women to advance in their field have improved.
Seventy-two percent of these women said they’d experienced gender-based discrimination. But when asked about the companies they worked for now, a solid majority–71 percent– said that their work culture was equally supportive of both and women.
“We know sexual harassment is a reality,” says Lesley Grossblatt, COO of theBoardlist. But she points out that many of these women have had long careers, and it could be that they experienced harassment many years ago. “When we ask about the companies women ask for now, they overwhelmingly say the climate is better,” says Grossblatt. So there seems to be a positive trend for the future.”
Working with Men
Male mentors also played a big role in supporting the careers of these women. “A really huge number of women said their primary mentor in their career was a man, but most of their role models were women,” says Grossblatt. That’s partly because many of these women, Grossblatt says, were trailblazers. As they were moving up in their careers, there weren’t that many women ahead of them who could possibly serve as mentors. Of those who had mentors, 68 percent said that mentor was male. Fifty-three percent of the women who had a role model said that person was another woman.
Those numbers seem to be shifting as more women hold leadership roles in business, says Grossblatt. According to Boardlist’s research, younger women are more likely to have a female mentor.
The women were also asked why they believe so few women sit on corporate boards. The number one response: access to the right networks.