Clogs in the Pipeline: The Mixed Data on Women Directors and Continued Barriers to Their Advancement

47 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2012

See all articles by Lisa M. Fairfax

Lisa M. Fairfax

George Washington University - Law School

Date Written: 2006


The longstanding disparity between the percentage of women in the workforce and their membership on corporate boards indicates that women continue to face significant barriers to corporate board membership. Evidence drawn from an empirical study on women directors at Fortune 100 companies demonstrates that the mere passage of time does not eliminate these barriers. This empirical study confirms that women have made considerable progress since 1934, but the aggregate number of women directors is small when compared against their percentages in the workforce and school population.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 may have resulted in changes in board composition that have a positive impact on women's effectiveness in the boardroom, but it has not resulted in a significant increase in the number of women directors. The empirical evidence on directors’ occupations reveals that the pipeline from the workforce to the board primarily flows through corporate executive suites. As a result, the failure of women to advance to executive levels within the corporation is a critical reason for the sluggish advancement of women on boards.

Keywords: Women directors, corporate governance, barriers to advancement, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, fortune 100, corporate boards, empirical study, data, advancement of women

JEL Classification: K10, K22, J16

Suggested Citation

Fairfax, Lisa M., Clogs in the Pipeline: The Mixed Data on Women Directors and Continued Barriers to Their Advancement (2006). Maryland Law Review, Vol. 65, No. 579-624, 2006, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-90, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-90, Available at SSRN:

Lisa M. Fairfax (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-4630 (Phone)


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