No Seat at the Table

How Corporate Governance and Law Keep Women Out of the Boardroom

239 pages

2 illustrations

April, 2008

ISBN: 9780814791059



Also available in


Part of the Critical America series


Douglas Branson is the W. Edward Sell Chair at the University of Pittsburgh.  He is author of 23 books, including No Seat at the Table: How Corporate Governance and Law Keep Women out of the Boardroom (NYU 2007), and The Last Male Bastion: Gender and the CEO Suite in America’s Public Companies

All books by Douglas M. Branson

Women are completing MBA and Law degrees in record high numbers, but their struggle to attain director positions in corporate America continues. Although explanations for this disconnect abound, neither career counselors nor scholars have paid enough attention to the role that corporate governance plays in maintaining the gender gap in America's executive quarters.

Mining corporate governance models applied at Fortune 500 companies, hundreds of Title VII discrimination cases, and proxy statements, Douglas M. Branson suggests that women have been ill-advised by experts, who tend to teach females how to act like their male, executive counterparts. Instead, women who aspire to the boardroom should focus on the decision-making processes nominating committees—usually dominated by white men—employ when voting on membership.

Filled with real-life cases, No Seat at the Table opens the closed doors of the boardroom and reveals the dynamics of the corporate governance process and the double standards that often characterize it. Based on empirical evidence, Branson concludes that women have to follow different paths than men in order to gain CEO status, and as such, encourages women to make flexible, conscious, and often frequent shifts in their professional behaviors and work ethics as they climb the corporate ladder.


  • “An interesting thesis, and one that makes sense”

    The New Republic

  • “This book should be read by anyone interested in advancing to the boardrooms in corporate America. . . . Branson provides interesting discussions on linguistic differences between males and females as well as gender differences in play, along with their implications for success in business. . . . Branson reveals how corporate governance practices hinder women’s career advancement and suggests strategies women should adopt to succeed in the corporate world . . . Highly recommended.”


  • “Packed with informative statistics about the presence of women at various levels of corporate governance — as CEOs, executive directors, managers, and in the pipeline.”

    —Nancy Levit, author of The Gender Line: Men, Women, and the Law

  • “Coming from the pen of a leading thinker in corporate law, this book provides a powerful — if disheartening — explanation for the lack of women on corporate boards. It is provocative, impeccably researched, and compellingly written.”

    —Kent Greenfield, Professor of Law and Zamparelli Scholar at Boston College Law School

  • “Professor Branson's book makes an important contribution to the study of women's advancement in the corporate hierarchy, combining startling statistics with well-informed insights. Using a rich pool of sources including linguistic theory, studies of group dynamics, and judicial opinions, Branson illustrates the speed-bumps that may impede a woman's rise to the top.”

    —Jayne W. Barnard, Cutler Professor of Law, The College of William & Mary