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Women leaders? Not in our boardroom

Board meetings at the top communications companies still resemble fraternity gatherings, according to a new study on women in leadership roles.

    Board meetings at the top communications companies still resemble fraternity gatherings, according to a new study on women in leadership roles.

    The University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center found that women account for less than one in five board members of the largest communications companies. They also hold just one in four executive positions. The study examined the 2001 annual reports of communications companies from the entertainment, publishing and telecommunications fields.

    The study pointed out that women are "aggressively courted" as consumers of the company's products, yet they are underrepresented in the company's top echelons.

    "With few exceptions, we have not moved beyond tokenism in the number of women in top leadership positions or serving on the boards of communications companies," Susan Ness, center director and former Federal Communications commissioner, said in a statement.

    NTL and Adelphia Communications fared the worst, having no women board members or executives, according to the 2001 annual reports. SBC Communications was at the top of the list for women in leadership roles. At SBC, women accounted for 29 percent of board members and 24 percent of top executives.

    Several companies had no women executives, including Alltel, Fox Entertainment Group, Knight Trading Group, USA Networks and WorldCom.

    Companies without women board members included AMC Entertainment, Ameritrade, Clear Channel, CNET Networks, DoubleClick, E*Trade, FreeMarkets, IDT, Knight Trading Group, The Washington Post Co. and Yahoo. CNET Networks is the publisher of News.com.

    The report did suggest a silver lining to current financial scandals: Researchers said they could pave the way for more women board members.

    "With corporate governance under the microscope and stock exchange listing requirements tightening, boards are making an effort to increase the number of independent members," Ness said. "Ironically, women may have a greater opportunity now than ever before to be tapped as top executives and board members."

    However, Ness warned against picking women for leadership positions simply to add diversity, saying plenty of women also have the expertise and talent to assume the roles.