updated 11/30/2010 11:46:26 AM ET 2010-11-30T16:46:26

BOSTON, Nov. 30, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new initiative, 2020 Women on Boards ( www.2020WOB.com ) will raise the percentage of women on corporate boards in the U.S. to 20 percent or greater by the year 2020. This grassroots campaign to engage consumers and thought leaders about why diversity in the boardroom is important seeks to bring national awareness to the issue. It launches in Boston on December 1. According to Catalyst, the latest national figure for women directors on Fortune 1000 boards is about 11 percent, a number that's been static for years. There are many organizations across the country working on the issue; however, no one yet has gone to the public with a grassroots approach.

2020 Women on Boards (2020 WOB) is the brainchild of Stephanie Sonnabend, CEO and President of Sonesta International Hotel Corporation. Ms. Sonnabend, a champion for women's leadership issues who sits on two corporate boards (Sonesta's and Century Bank's in Massachusetts) believes that what's missing in the board diversity effort is a consumer-driven, grassroots approach. Malli Gero, a public relations consultant who works in the women's leadership arena, joined the campaign as Executive Director.

"The 2020 WOB Campaign defines diversity as having at least 20 percent women in the boardroom. This creates diversity of thinking which is critical for good decision making, and better represents a company's shareholders, employees and customers" says Sonnabend. "We're building a network of individuals, businesses and organizations to voice their support and build momentum for the campaign. We look to be real change agents."

A cornerstone of the campaign is a growing list of "W" companies -- "winning" companies that have already achieved the 20 percent milestone. There are already over 200 companies in the "W" database, which will be identified on the website, www.2020WOB.com. By 2012, 2020 WOB will publish the names of "Z" companies, which have no women directors, and "T" companies, which have only a single woman director. "V" companies, which are very close (usually one woman away) to becoming "W" companies, will be encouraged to join this group of winners.

According to Gero, "We will rely on groups like Catalyst, The Boston Club and others to identify companies to add to our lists. But we'll also ask our supporters to research the companies they do business with, as consumers, employees and shareholders. It's how we'll begin to educate the public and build a groundswell of support."

About 2020 Women on Boards: 2020 Women on Boards is a grassroots campaign that will help raise the percentage of women who serve on corporate boards in the U.S. to 20 percent or greater by the year 2020. Individuals, organizations and companies that embrace the principle that diversity in the boardroom encourages good corporate decisions support the campaign. Log onto the website: www.2020WOB.com to register your support for the issue or for more information.

The 2020 Women on Boards logo is available at https://csc.globenewswire.com/csd/csx/mm-companylogo?o=14179

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