In an enduring trend, service industries reveal a more encouraging snapshot of women's representation in corporate boardrooms in general than others. However, presenting a sharp, and perhaps even welcome, contrast amidst the predominance of service industries, it was manufacturing of non-durable goods that actually threw up the highest proportion of women in boardrooms in 2010 - at 18.1 percent. This was revealed by the newly released study from non profit member organization Catalyst, the 2010 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors which details women's representation in corporate governance at 497 of the largest companies in the US.

Leading the pack among the service industries in this context are Finance, Retail and Utilities, each of which has surpassed the industry average of 15.7%. In Finance and Insurance, 17.4% out of the 1039 available board seats were held by women, while in Retail and Utilities the corresponding proportions stood at 17.7% (633 seats) and 16.8% (398 seats) respectively.

Estée Lauder (Retail) as a company had the highest proportion of women directors - 46.2% while Avon Products (Manufacturing-Non Durables) came a close second with 45.5%.

In terms of driving business from senior leadership positions, however, Finance & Insurance continued to present the most attractive field for women with 19.1% of such positions in the industry being held by women. Retail held the second spot with 18.3% women executive leaders.

Individual companies Gap, Limited Brands (both Retail), H&R Block (Professional & Business Services) and TIAA-CREF (Finance) each boasted 50% women executive officers - the highest overall.