The number of women in boardrooms grew to one-quarter of all new outside directors, up from about 16 percent in 2003, according to a report released this week by executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

The annual “Board Index” also found that 24 percent of the 443 new outside directors named last year to companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 index were women. That was the largest increase in female independent directors ever in S and P 500 companies in one year, the firm said.

Women now account for 16 percent of total board membership in the S and P 500, an increase from 13 percent in 2003, and 12 percent in 1999.

However, female chief executives declined to seven from nine in 2003, according to the report.

Other reasons to cheer this week:

— Virginia delegate John Cosgrove decided Monday to withdraw a controversial bill that would have required women to report a miscarriage within 12 hours or face a possible misdemeanor sentence. Cosgrove, a Republican from Chesapeake, had been blasted by bloggers who criticized the bill. Press reports say that his office received more than 500 e-mails protesting what they considered to be an infringement on women’s rights.

— As part of its new dress code, the U.S. Navy is giving women more control over their wardrobe. For the first time since women officially entered service in 1908, women are no longer required to wear skirts. Until the new rules went into effect this month, woman had to maintain skirts in their sea bags and could be ordered to wear them for special events such as change-of-command and retirement ceremonies. Now, skirts are optional.


An early Sunday morning fire at the Eastside Women’s Health Clinic in Olympia, Wash., was an act of arson, according to local police and federal investigators from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The clinic was closed when the fire was discovered and there were no injuries, reports The Associated Press. Investigators say that the blaze, which caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to the clinic, was the result of incendiary materials set on fire on the roof.

At this time, the fire has not been linked to any anti-choice group and the FBI has withdrawn from the investigation. Co-owner Nancy Armstrong told the local Washington press that she didn’t think the fire was random. “The first thing that comes to mind is they’re anti-abortion,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong also said the fire destroyed old medical instruments and some documents but did not damage patient records and will not put the clinic out of business.

Another Jeer:

— Nationally, college-educated women earn only 72 percent as much as college-educated men, showing a national wage gap of 28 cents on the dollar, according to research from the American Association of University Women. The report, prepared in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, lists the following states as having the largest gender earnings gap for college-educated women and men: Utah, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

Corrie Pikul is a correspondent for Women’s eNews.