General Business

Boardrooms Are Changing – Just Not Quickly Enough

Pressure from shareholders and customers, along with incontrovertible evidence that diverse boardrooms improve the bottom line, has led to a steady increase in women on boards of Fortune 500 companies in the past decade. But progress has been frustratingly slow.

The 2021 “Missing Pieces” report, a multi-year board diversity study of Fortune 500 boards by Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity, found women held only 26.5% of the 5,888 director seats on Fortune 500 boards last year, and just 28.2% of the 1,240 seats on Fortune 100 boards. Incredibly, six major US companies still had boards entirely composed of white men.

Michele Siekerka

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA)

While we celebrate the 10-percentage point increase in women on the boards of the largest US companies since 2012, it is disappointing that change over an eight-year period has come at such an incremental pace. In fact, separate research published in Heidrick & Struggles’ Board Monitor even documented a setback last year, finding the percentage of new appointments of women to seats on Fortune 500 boards was 3 percentage points lower in 2020 than in 2019. 

This is why NJBIA works tirelessly on initiatives to increase opportunities for women to advance to the senior corporate positions that serve as a springboard for boardroom appointments. We do this through our Women Business Leaders Council and our annual Women Business Leaders Forum, the largest professional women’s conference in New Jersey. 

Hundreds of women and men will be joining us Sept. 22–24 to learn, make connections, and be inspired by nationally renowned speakers who know how to help women hone their talents and skills to build successful businesses, pursue leadership roles, and mentor the next generation of women in business. 

This year, the WBLF offers a hybrid in-person and virtual conferencing experience, bringing together corporate and nonprofit leaders, entrepreneurs and students to be uplifted and empowered. 

Our keynote speaker is Joanna Coles, executive producer of ABC Freeform’s hit TV series “The Bold Type,” a comedy-drama inspired by Coles’ iconic career in publishing as the former chief content officer of Hearst Magazines. Coles is also a renowned advocate for women in media and the business world. She sits on the board of the nonprofit WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs in New York City), an initiative to expand female entrepreneurship, and numerous other corporate boards including Snapchat and Sonos. 

The 2021 WBLF will also feature three executive TED-style talks featuring four-time U.S. Olympian and entrepreneur Joetta Clark Diggs; Major League Baseball’s Chief People & Culture Officer Michele Meyer-Shipp; and Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki, who is also the first woman to serve as president of the Casino Association of New Jersey. 

Eight breakout sessions are also scheduled on a range of career topics, such as women in STEM, creative risk-taking, building workplace confidence, achieving financial independence, balancing working from home during COVID-19, and more. One-on-one coaching sessions will help attendees revamp resumes and make over LinkedIn profiles. 

Few people are born leaders. Most need role models and mentors whose effective communication, negotiation skills and leadership abilities show us how to raise our professional profile and make vital career connections. NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum is the perfect opportunity to network and learn from the best. 

Whether you aspire to the boardroom, or are committed to helping women advance there, I hope you join us. Register at

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