Pathways to leadership: board independence, diversity, and the emerging pipeline in the US for women directors

Hugh M.J. Colaco, Paul Myers, Mindell R. Nitkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the wake of this decade's corporate scandals, crimes and excesses, improving the effectiveness of corporate governance in the United States has become a priority. An important influence on a board's effectiveness at monitoring is its members’ degree of independence from senior management. While the current definition of independence revolves around the absence of familial and economic connections between a firm and its directors, research suggests that this standard may be inadequate in ensuring independent oversight. Rather, diversity along racial, gender and other dimensions has been proposed as a potentially more effective standard for board independence. This is especially welcome news for women, who currently comprise 51 per cent of the US managerial workforce but only 14.8 per cent of the directors on boards of large, publicly traded US corporations. Some explain the current dearth of women board members by claiming that there are no qualified women available for board service and/or that women are not interested in board service. However, there is more anecdotal rather than empirical evidence on the issue. Surveying women at a women's leadership conference in Boston, this research investigates the extent to which women are currently involved in some type of board service and the extent to which women aspire to future board service. We find that women are currently more active in governance activities than prior research on corporate boards suggests and that they aspire to play a continued and expanded role in governance activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-147
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Disclosure and Governance
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • corporate governance
  • women
  • board of directors
  • for-profit organizations
  • non-profit organizations


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