Women At The Boardroom Door

While I was not particularly surprised to read that only 6.2% of directors are women ("The glass ceiling: A barrier to the boardroom, too," Top of the News, Nov. 22), I was stunned to learn that 49% of female directors come out of education. It is time to give women from a variety of disciplines the opportunity to make valuable contributions at the top echelons of the nation's businesses.

If Corporate America wants to avail itself of this underutilized resource, maximize the potential for meaningful contribution, and reduce the risk of mistakes, here are my suggestions:

-- Bring in outsiders. Reaching outside your own company is a safe method of easing women into what might otherwise be an unwelcome or unpracticed boardroom environment.

-- Test potential board candidates. Give women one-shot, project-oriented assignments that are visible and necessitate board interaction. That way, board members can get to know them, and if and when they are invited to join the club, they will be welcome and adjust readily.

-- Find professionals with expertise. Investment bankers, corporate attorneys, and accountants are experts in their fields who have a strong likelihood of contributing in significant ways.

-- Welcome women for their specific business skills and overall contribution. Do not bring in a woman and put her in charge of "women's issues."

The American Boardroom would benefit greatly from the expertise, professionalism, and fresh perspective businesswomen are able to bring.

Patricia M. Hall

President and CEO

Hallmark Capital

New York

Judith Dobrzynski correctly points out that relatively few women serve on the boards of the largest corporations. But she fails to recognize or chooses to ignore that such companies grew and prospered without female leadership. Dobrzynski advances a meritless argument that more women should serve on boards simply because so few of them now hold such positions.

For the most part, the character, ambition, and talent of men have built American corporations. Historically, it was men who risked financial stability and reputations to develop goods-producing and service-providing companies. The results have been spectacular. Now, after the railroads have been built on the backs and brains of men, women feel the need to jump on board and demand to be included in determining how to make the trains run on time.

My professional and educational experiences have shown me that women have the same intelligence as men. The reason they are underrepresented on boards is because they have not taken the initiative to build companies.

Patrick Wiesner

Lawrence, Kan.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.