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ND MBA partners with Forte Foundation to promote women in the boardroom

New initiative seeks to increase the number of women sitting on for- and nonprofit boards

by Carol Elliott

January 28, 2013

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In the past decade, the percentage of women serving on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies has hovered at about 16 percent – a number considered abysmally low, especially considering enrollment of women in MBA programs now ranges between 28-35 percent globally.

The Notre Dame MBA’s female student enrollment for the class entering in fall 2012 is 33 percent.

The low number of women board members also flies in the face of several research studies that find companies with one or more women on the board have delivered higher average returns on equity, better average growth and higher price/book value multiples over the course of the past six years (Credit Suisse Research Institute August 2012 report “Gender diversity and corporate performance”).

When board executives are asked why they don’t include more women, their answer is usually straightforward: We can’t find qualified candidates.

A new global initiative aims to change that.

“Driving Gender Diversity in the Boardroom” is a collaborative effort between the European Commission Taskforce; its U.S. partner, the Forté Foundation; Forté member business schools, including the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business; the Financial Times and the executive networking group Watermark for Exceptional Women.

The initiative seeks to build a list of board-ready women and bring attention to the lack of women on corporate boards. Its central piece is a LinkedIn group established solely for women who meet stated criteria for being “globally board-ready.” The idea is that the group will enable recruiting companies to readily search, find and approach group members who meet their criteria, and thereby facilitate board membership.

Candidates can apply directly to be included in the LinkedIn group, or may be identified by member schools such as Mendoza College and encouraged to join. The criteria can be found on the Forté “Driving Gender Diversity in the Boardroom” website, as well as additional resources and research for women interested in board membership.

The Financial Times Non-Executive Director’s Club will administer the LinkedIn group on behalf of the initiative.

The Mendoza College has been a member of the Forté Foundation since 2011 as part of its longstanding mission of supporting human development and community. Notre Dame MBA awarded more than $1.7 million in Forté Foundation fellowships to top female MBA students who will graduate in 2013 and 2014. Ninety-eight percent of women that receive a fellowship are awarded $10,000 or more.

“The University of Notre Dame MBA Program is proud of our relationship with the Forté Foundation,” said Brian Lohr, director of Notre Dame MBA Admissions.  “Our ability to provide more opportunities for our female students is central to our mission as a University, and this includes promoting their ability to join and lead corporate boards.”

 Notre Dame alumnae interested in becoming part of the LinkedIn group should contact Timothy Ponisciak, director of Graduate Alumni Relations, at (574) 631-4859 or tponisci@nd.edu.