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With 50-50 gender split on board, GM is in rare company

Joann Muller writes, "In June, when General Motors (GM -0.53%) shareholders elected Jane Mendillo to the board of directors, GM became — without fanfare or indeed much notice — the first major industrial corporation with an even gender split on its board.

GM didn’t issue a press release crowing about the milestone, which is perhaps equally significant; after all, it shouldn’t be news that men and women share power. Of course, it is important, not just in the automotive industry, where leadership is overwhelmingly male, but also in less “gendered” industries, where women are historically underrepresented on corporate boards.

Women account for 21.3% of board seats at S&P 500 companies, up from 16.6% in 2012, according to a new analysis by Equilar, an executive data research firm.

While progress has been slow, there is evidence that companies are trying harder to add women to their boards. The number of all-male boards, for instance, has decreased significantly in the past few years. In 2012, nearly one in eight S&P 500 boards was all male, according to Equilar. Today, it is just 1.4%."

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