Sheri Grady is on a crusade to crack what she calls the "last bastion of male domination": corporate boards.There are too few women governing corporate America, she says, and statistics support her contention.According to a 1997 study by the National Association of Corporate Directors, 59% of the companiessurveyed had no female directors, and 30% had only one. That, she says, is bad business.
Grady chairs Board Builders, a new organization based in Orange County, Calif., that trains women forboards and helps female CEOs create their first board of directors. "Women represent half your potentialsales," Grady tells CEOs. "So you need people at the top who know what that market responds to."
Women just plain think differently, Grady contends. She says female directors can find solutions toseemingly intractable problems that might befuddle their male counterparts. As an example, she tells thestory of one data-entry company at which female employees took time off to visit their children at day-carecenters. Productivity dropped. The mostly male board talked about incentives and "docking" pay, Gradysays. The sole woman director offered a different solution. She suggested installing software to allowmothers to check on their children over the Internet. That was the answer.
Grady credits female directors with being the driving force behind the new wave of such enlightenedpolicies as parental leave. "Men weren't able to take the afternoon off to watch their children play LittleLeague until women said, 'Damn it, I want to go to PTA meetings,' " she says. How does a company find afew good women? Grady suggests contacting Board Builders and the handful of organizations like it aroundthe country. She also encourages CEOs to talk to their bankers, accountants, and lawyers for leads. If thatfails, contact a recruiting agency. --M. B.