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Conversations with Cynthia Pharr Lee


Freeman+Leonard recently hosted a program we called ACT 2: A Paid Corporate Board Position. Some 50 executive-level women marketers attended the two-hour event in early April with Cynthia Pharr Lee our guest expert. Cynthia, a board member of numerous private and public companies since the late 1980’s, spoke specifically about the ongoing need for women and marketers to have a greater presence in the boardroom. She answered planned and spontaneous questions about the process of positioning oneself for a paid board seat.

There are more than 10,000 corporate board seats open each year in the U.S. However, only 20.8% of the Fortune 1000 board seats are held by women. Less than half of 1% of board seats for Fortune 1000 companies have been held by CMOs or executive-level marketers.

Statistics indicate women and marketers make a difference in the boardroom.


  • A recent Harvard study ranked the Fortune 500 companies by the number of women directors on their boards
  • It found those in the highest quartile of women had a 42% greater return on sales.


  • Marketers sit at the nexus of every key growth driver of each company:
    • Brand, customer experience, data, design, digital, insights, media, product, sales, services
  • Companies represented with marketers on their boards perform better than those without
    • A board with one director with marketing experience is associated with a 3-percentage point increase in total shareholder return over a board with no marketing experienced directors

These organizations provide training for both non-profit and for-profit board positions:

  • National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD)
    • As the recognized authority on leading boardroom practices, NACD empowers more than 20,000 directors to lead with confidence in the boardroom.
  • Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance
    • This UT Dallas Institute for Excellence creates value for C-Suite executives and board members of public and private companies and nonprofit organizations through thought leadership and connecting people.