Diversity among top women general counsel hits all-time high

 Mirroring the rebounding economy, the ranks of women general counsel at Fortune 500 companies bounced back in the past year, according to a just-released survey by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, Inc. (MCCA). Nine women joined the ranks of top general counsel over the last year, following a slight decline in the prior year.

The MCCA 2010 Survey of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 Women General Counsel (“MCCA Women General Counsel Survey”) showed 94 women serving as general counsel at the nation’s 500 largest companies (based upon 2009 revenue figures compiled by Fortune magazine – i.e., the “Fortune 500”), a 10 percent increase over the 85 women serving in this capacity in the prior year.

Other highlights of the MCCA Women General Counsel Survey include the following:

  • The growth in women general counsel was paralleled by an across-the-board rise in their diversity. About 12.7 percent of the group identified themselves as minorities, making the 2010 group the most diverse in the survey’s history. The roster of Fortune 500 women general counsel included 82 Caucasians (seven more than reported in the 2009 survey), seven African Americans (one more), three Hispanics (one more) and two Asian/Pacific Islanders (one more).

  • Although women general counsel are based at Fortune 500 companies across the country, four states led the way, comprising 40 percent of the list: California with 14 companies, New York with ten, Texas with nine, and Illinois with seven.

  • Women general counsel continued to lead legal departments in a wide range of industries. They were most represented in the retail sector (15.9 percent of all Fortune 500 women general counsel) and pharmaceutical/health care (12.7 percent), but also served in industries ranging from energy and insurance to financial services and food services.

  • In the Fortune 1000 (companies ranked numbers 501 to 1000 in revenue by Fortune magazine), the number of women general counsel also saw an increase. Eighty women comprise this year’s list, versus 76 the prior year.

“This year’s survey shows that after a brief pause caused by the recession, women general counsel are continuing their advance at major corporations,” said Veta T. Richardson, MCCA’s executive director. “The women leading Fortune 500 and 1000 companies today have weathered the economic storm and are more experienced and capable than ever.”