Feb. 7, 2008
Law professor Sale works to increase women's numbers on corporate boards
Among the thousands of board members serving America's public corporations, only about 14 percent are women.
Hillary Sale is working to change that.
Sale is a UI law professor and a member of the organization DirectWomen -- started last year by the American Bar Association and Catalyst, a group assisting women in business -- that aims to recruit, train and place more women lawyers on the boards of America's publicly traded companies.
"Independent board members are more in demand than ever because of changes in financial reporting laws since the accounting scandals at Enron and other companies," said Sale, an expert in corporate governance law. "There is a large pool of educated, experienced women lawyers waiting to fill those appointments, so we want to help those women receive the training they need and help place them on corporate boards."
Sale said women lawyers bring numerous advantages to companies. As women, they bring new perspectives and viewpoints to the board, and as attorneys, they are articulate, intelligent, analytic and organized strategic thinkers.
"In addition, several studies suggest that the more women are on the board, the more profitable a company is," Sale said.
DirectWomen hosts an institute each year as its primary training seminar. Sale is chairing this year's after participating last year as a faculty member. The institute will be held Feb. 20-22 in New York.
There, 20 women lawyers will gather to hear from speakers to learn about how corporate boards operate and what they can expect while serving on boards. The topics they will cover include the roles and responsibilities of the director and the board, leadership and strategy, the use of financial statements in strategic planning, assessment of company performance, today's legal and regulatory environments, directors' and officers' liability and other current issues.
Sale said the organization also presents the Sandra Day O'Connor Award, named after the first woman to become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The award honors women lawyers who have served with distinction as directors of public companies and have worked to advance the value of diversity in board positions.
Among the women who have participated in the first two institutes are corporate general counsels, law firm partners, congresswomen and a college president. Sale said that one alumna of the program has already been appointed to the board of a financial services corporation.
More information about DirectWomen is available on the Web at http://www.abanet.org/buslaw/directwomen/.
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