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As Boards Shrink, Responsibilities Grow

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Executive Summary

Smaller, more independent, more diverse: These are key trends for corporate boards in this country, which are gradually losing their image as old boys' networks of golfing and fishing buddies. The changes are evolutionary, and efforts to recruit women and minorities still tend to get bogged down in a debate about qualifications. Not long ago, a handful of top minorities. Now those ranks are growing, though not as quickly as some diversity advocates might like. It's still easier, recruiters say, to find a white male with the right qualifications than a minority person or a woman with similar credentials. But the big, unwieldy board, often an unplanned agglomeration resulting from several mergers, is starting to disappear. Executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International's latest annual survey of board practices, released last fall, found that at Fortune 1000 corporations, boards now average 11 members, with two being "insiders" - members of company management sitting as directors. That's down from as many as five insiders a generation ago. Two-thirds of those responding to the Korn/Ferry survey reported that their boards were making efforts to adopt policies recommended by shareholder associations and institutional investors.

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