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Get More Women on Boards: Opinion

Female representation on corporate boards globally increased to 59% last year from 41% at the end of 2005. This is exciting news.

Still, this year more than half of Fortune 1000 companies have either one or zero women occupying a seat on their board of directors, according to the group 2020 Women on Boards, a campaign to increase the percentage of women who serve on public company boards to 20% or greater by 2020. In the U.S., 36% of companies still have not a single woman on their board, according to researcher GMI Ratings.

Right now, women make up just 14.6% of corporate directors at Fortune 1000 companies, and fewer than 4% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. At the same time, women comprise roughly half the U.S. workforce and over half the managers in that workforce. They're responsible for almost 80% of all consumer spending, and there are over 10 million majority-owned, privately held, women-owned firms in the U.S., employing over 18 million people and generating $2.32 trillion in sales.

Meanwhile, over 1,000 directors on Fortune 1000 company boards are over 70 and facing retirement. These (mostly) men are likely to be replaced by a new generation of directors who better reflect the 21st century other words, women. Companies would be smart to lead the way on this rather than get stuck playing catch up and looking out of touch.

Facebook (FB) made waves when it put its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, on its board before its initial public offering when it came under fire for its all-male board. But who is really leading on this?

Estee Lauder (EL) has seven women on its 15-member board. KeyCorp (KEY) has six women on its 16-member board.

There are also Procter and Gamble (PG), New York Times (NYT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Wells Fargo (WFC), Hormel Foods (HRL), Avon Products (AVP), Bare Escentuals (BARE), WellPoint (WLP) and Tupperware (TUP), all of which have five female directors.

Don't underestimate the importance of board representation. CEOs tend to get blamed when things go wrong at big companies. But at the end of the day, the health of a corporation is the responsibility of its board of directors, and the clubby world of corporate boards should be facing more scrutiny -- starting with their startling lack of female representation.

Then maybe we'll have the option of voting for a woman in the White House in 2016.

Follow me on Twitter @NatWorden.

As of publication the author doesn't own stock in any of the companies discussed in this article.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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