The Status of Women in Corporate Governance in High-Growth, High-Potential Firms


Please send correspondence to: Teresa Nelson, tel.: (617) 521-3867; e-mail:


Surveys of the largest U.S. corporations routinely demonstrate that the role of women in corporate governance is acutely limited. In this research we examine how high-growth entrepreneurial sectors of the economy compare to that standard. We posit that high demand labor markets, enhanced higher education of women, and dynamic industry and firm conditions could result in a greater participation of women executives in firms moving toward major corporate status through initial public offering. However, our study results show few significant differences between women's participation in high-growth, high-potential firms versus the Fortune 500. Several of the findings directly contradict our hypotheses, with lower rates of women as board directors and a greater likelihood of the executive team being composed exclusively of men in high-growth, high-potential firms. Women are not present in the top leadership spots of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Board Chair in either sector, and within high-growth firms are significantly less likely to be found on the boards of venture capital backed companies. The implications of these findings for companies, for policy, and for women and men planning careers in business are discussed.