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The Lodis Forum’s Women in Board Leadership Survey

The Lodis Forum’s Women in Board Leadership Survey

Since private company boards are not required to report board diversity metrics, The Lodis Forum, a peer group for female Board Chairs, recently completed a survey to gather data on board diversity in privately held companies. The survey data is from 249 companies representing 1695 directors.

The pooled data showed that the surveyed boards had about a quarter of female directors and a quarter of women in board leadership roles. Segregating the data in various ways illuminates some stark differences between the gender of the senior leadership (CEO and Chairman) and how it impacts gender diversity and women in board leadership roles. [1]

Key Take-Aways

Based on the survey data, female Chairmen had the biggest impact on gender diversity and women in board leadership roles. Despite the CEO’s gender, boards with a female Chairman had more female directors and more women in leadership roles than boards chaired by men.

Those boards with a female Chairman and CEO had the biggest impact on the number of female directors and women in board leadership roles. Boards with a female Chairman and CEO had more female directors and more women in leadership roles than any other senior leadership combination.

Boards with a female Chairman and male CEO, a kind of gender balance in itself, had the greatest incidence of gender balance, meaning three or more women on the board. 53% of boards chaired by a female Chairman and male CEO had gender balance, meaning three or more women on the board, compared to only 32% of boards with a female CEO and Chairman.

Impact of Gender of Senior Leadership (CEO and Chairman) on Board Diversity

Based on the results of this survey, there is a strong correlation between the Chairman’s gender and board diversity. While no board achieved full gender parity, meaning 50% men and 50% women, those boards with a female Chairman had 42% female directors, compared to 24% female directors on those boards chaired by men. Additionally, boards with female Chairs, regardless of the gender of the CEO, 60% of the women serving under a female Chairman were in leadership roles, compared to 27% of women serving under a male Chairman.

Looking at the data segmented by the gender of the senior leaders (CEO and Chairman), there was almost no difference between the percentage of women serving in board leadership roles with a female Chairman. There was, however, a fairly large difference when comparing the percentage of women in board leadership roles with a male Chairman.

Gender of Senior LeadersPercentage of Women in Board Leadership Roles
Female Chairman and Male CEO57%
Female Chairman and Female CEO64%
Male Chairman and Male CEO29%
Male Chairman and Female CEO7%

Gender Balance

Although this is still a work in progress for our respondents, 29% of boards have already achieved gender balance, meaning three or more women on the board. This section explores how the gender of the senior leadership, meaning the CEO and Chairman, impacts the frequency of gender balance.

Catalyst.org has done extensive research on women on boards. Here’s what they say about the benefits of a gender-balanced board:

  • Women need to hold three or more board seats to create critical mass, leading to better financial performance.
  • Reaching critical mass can substantially change boardroom dynamics, creating an environment where innovative ideas can spring from diverse perspectives.
  • Women holding leadership positions on boards are positively associated with other women having longer board tenures.

In analyzing the gender balance in the boardroom, more boards had gender balance under a female Chairman (43%) than those chaired by men (23%), regardless of the gender of the CEO.

Interestingly, when there is a female Chairman and male CEO (a kind of gender balance in itself), more than half (53%) of the boards had three or more women on the board. With a female CEO and Chairman, 32% of the boards had gender balance.

In those boards chaired by men, 23% of the boards had gender balance. When broken down to look at the gender of the senior leaders, 23% of the boards with a male CEO and Chairman had gender balance, and slightly more boards had gender balance (27%) with a female CEO and male Chairman.

Gender of Senior Leaders (CEO and Chairman) and the Impacts on Gender Diversity

As mentioned above, boards chaired by women had 42% female directors, compared to 24% female directors on boards chaired by men. Boards with both a female CEO and Chairman had 46% female directors, followed by boards with a CEO and Chairman of different genders. In last place, at 23% female directors were those boards with both a male CEO and Chairman.

Gender of Senior LeadersPercentage of Women in Board Leadership Roles
Female Chairman and Female CEO46%
Female Chairman and Male CEO39%
Male Chairman and Female CEO38%
Male Chairman and Male CEO23%

The Lodis Forum supports all initiatives to get more women in the boardroom, an important first step to board diversity. However, The Lodis Forum also believes that board leadership roles, meaning Chair, Vice-Chair, and Committee Chair, also need to be diverse. Without women and men working side-by-side to set agendas and facilitate discussions, the true impact of board diversity will not be fully realized.

Based on the survey results, if a board wants to reap the benefits of a gender-diverse board both in board leadership roles and in gender diversity, placing a woman in the Chairman role is an effective strategy to increase board diversity at all levels.

About The Lodis Forum

The Lodis Forum is a peer group exclusively for female Board Chairs or Vice-Chairs focusing on governance excellence, peer exchange, research, and advocacy.

Governance Excellence: Provide resources and insight to support governance excellence

Peer Exchange: Build a supportive network of women who are experiencing similar challenges

Research: Conduct research on private company board leadership diversity

Advocacy: Create awareness about the lack of diversity in these critical leadership roles

We are the only forum exclusively connecting female Chairs or Vice-Chairs. The power of our “collective” is both inspirational and unique.

If you’d like to download the survey, please go to https://meghanjuday.com/the-lodis-forum/.

If you have questions or comments about the data analysis presented herein, don’t hesitate to contact The Lodis Forum Founder, Meghan Juday, at support@thelodisforum.com.


[1] Two notes on nomenclature: The Lodis Forum uses Chair and Chairman interchangeably. Although some believe that Chairman is masculine, The Lodis Forum believes that Chairman is gender-neutral, just as the word human is. This survey refers to board leadership roles, which refers to Chair, Vice-Chair and Committee Chair.

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