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Mary BarraPhotograph by Marvin Shaouni

This Is the One Area Where Women Are Making Big Progress in Business

This Is the One Area Where Women Are Making Big Progress in Business

Research by Scott DeCarlo; Graphic by Nicolas Rapp

Women seem to be plateauing in the corner office, but in the boardroom there’s increasing cause for optimism. One-fifth of all board members of Fortune 500 companies are now female, and the numbers are rising. Women are also increasingly becoming heads of boardroom committees—arguably the power positions.

Chair, Governance Committee (% of Women in 2016): 27.8%

Women now hold almost 28% of all nominating and governance committee chairs, up from 14.2% in 2005. This means they now head up the succession process at many large companies, which could lead to more diversity at the top.

Member, Board of Directors: 20.6%

Women now make up 20.6% of all Fortune 500 board members. That’s up six percentage points since 2005.

More: See this year’s list of the Most Powerful Women in Business

Chair, Audit Committee: 18.2%

Female chairs of audit committees are also on the rise but still make up less than one-fifth of the total.

Chair, Compensation Committee: 12.6%

The compensation committee has seen the smallest increase in female chairs—up only 3.6 percentage points in 11 years, to 12.6%.

CEO: 4.8%

When it comes to female CEOs, the news is sobering. Just 4.8%, or 24, of Fortune 500 chief executives are women. That’s the same percentage as the year before and up from just 1.8% in 2005.


To see the full 2016 Most Powerful Women list, visit

A version of this article appears in the September 15, 2016 issue of Fortune with the headline “Women Inch Into the Boardroom.”