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Keven Bellows Headshot

Non-Profit Boards, Old Boy Club? No

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The New York Times on Saturday, April 5, ran a half-page story about non-profit boards in which only men were profiled and interviewed. The subjects' board service ranged from New York City to Los Angeles, from cultural institutions to mission-driven service organizations. But nary a woman's voice was heard. Even the experts who weighed in on the challenges of being a good board member were males.

It is next to impossible to believe that no prominent women of means could be found to contribute to the article, especially since, by default, non-profit boards are often the only boards women have access to! With women comprising only 16 percent of public corporate boards, there are a lot of very accomplished, wealthy women available to add great value to non-profits. And they do. In fact, they already make up a much larger percentage of non-profit board seats.

Many of them have been interviewed for The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors, by Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire. The book notes that one good way for women to get noticed by prominent business men is to serve with them on a non-profit board and excel at a major task like fundraising. Since only a 14.3 percent of women in America hold senior executive positions in corporations, executive-level men are rarely exposed to competent female leaders in their business-dealings.

For example, Lulu Wang, CEO of Tupelo Capital Management in New York City sits on the boards of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Asia Society and Rockefeller University -- boards she refers to as "high octane" nonprofits -- an easy telephone call away from a reporter from the New York Times.

And he needs look no further for women directors than the New York Historical Society which was lavishly praised in the article. Pam Shafler is the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Louise Mirrer, the president and CEO.

Ellen Futter is the president of the trustees of the very well known and fabulous American Museum of Natural History in New York. If the reporter couldn't get in touch with Ms. Futter, he could have asked for vice chair Fiona Druckenmiller.

Then there is the New York Public Library, highly visible in New York because of the controversy surrounding its planned renovation. Anne De La Renta is the vice chair and prominent philanthropist Susan Newhouse is on the Library board and many others.

Since the article focused a lot of attention on Lincoln Center, it might be of interest for readers to know that the chair of the board of Lincoln Center is a woman -- Katherine Farley, and Laurie Tisch and Ann Ziff are vice chairs.

While I have to salute the Times for all the great articles they do about the dearth of women on corporate boards, I find it strange that not a single woman is named in the Saturday piece on being a board member of a non-profit. (Women are in the photograph, however.)

It's not that those of us who value our cultural and charitable institutions aren't grateful for the good work of the men interviewed. But it's appalling and unfair that even in non-profits where women are outstanding leaders, men still get the spotlight!