Why? Because women themselves are radically underrepresented.
- In 2018, less than 1% of corporate boards are women.1 A shocking statistic, given that it’s the twenty-first century, and just two years shy of the centennial of women’s suffrage (i.e. passage of the 19th Constitutional Amendment on August 18, 1920 giving women the vote).
- Of the 24 U.S. states with 10 or more Fortune 1000 companies, Colorado ranked 23rd for female representation on corporate boards, ahead of only Oklahoma.2
- Currently, 65 percent of Fortune 100 boards have greater than 30 percent board diversity, compared to the Fortune 500 where that percentage drops to just under 50 percent of boards.3
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Education is NOT the driving factor.
For the eighth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2016. Of the 78,744 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016 (Table B.25), women earned 40,407 of those degrees and 52.1 percent of the total, compared to 37,145 degrees awarded to men who earned 47.9 percent of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education.4
We could spend oodles of space writing about the WHYs of this infuriating set of circumstances. The reasons are familiar ones: entrenched male power, patriarchy, misogyny, etc. But for a more productive use of time, we will explore some very heartening WHATs (are being done) and HOWs (we each can help) to achieve a greater parity of women in the boardroom.
Let’s start by talking about a commonsense solution we can implement today, right this minute: building relationships.
Relationships: Connections or Allies?
To build relationships with individuals who become allies – when people are thinking about us when we aren’t in the room – there are specific actions we can take:
- Amplify our presence and take up space. This simply means to take actions that tell people exactly who you are. When others know who you are, they know what to come to you for. They know what you must do to get where you want to go next. To do your best work for where you are, as well as prepare you for the work you want to be doing.
- Ask for what’s necessary to get what you want (for example: a promotion, a key assignment, appointment to lead a special project). This will indicate if your boss clear about what it takes to show success in the role you are in. If your superior don’t know, you will be aware that your position and advancement is at risk unless you build other relationships.
- Advocate for what’s right. There is a tactful way to broach tough topics, the things we know are limiting our personal growth as well as business growth. Find someone to talk to about these things and present ideas – a workable solution – which you can shape in order to obtain buy-in with your ally’s help.
- Trust yourself. Others will show you who they are and what they will do. Remember what you learn and use it. Trusting yourself will give insight into who is someone that can become your ally (and, conversely, that you can be an ally for).
Knowing these behaviors and practicing them is just the start. It takes commitment and confidence to keep going when things look bleak, when there has been a business relationship setback, and even when we’re blindsided.
Confidence and Commitment
There is a good and very recent state-level news on this topic: California, just passed VERY progressive legislation to level the gender-parity playing field in the board room. Bill SB-426 will, when fully enacted, mean that:
…California would join nations including France, Japan, and Norway in utilizing quotas to achieve gender diversity in corporate boardrooms. For California-based publicly-traded companies, SB826 would require that by the end of 2019, each public, corporate board in California include at least one woman. Included in the bill is an ambitious 2021 benchmark requiring two women on five-member boards, and at least three women on corporate boards with six or more members.5
And even though California’s effort succeeded, it is just one state. What to do in the other forty-nine?
For starters, promote the benefits – namely, that having more women in boardrooms is just good for business. A study by Catalyst found positives in a number of areas, including:
- Return on Equity: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 53 percent.
- Return on Sales: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 42 percent.
- Return on Invested Capital: On average, companies with the highest percentages of women board directors outperformed those with the least by 66 percent.6
We can translate these and similar data points into fantastic talking points to promote the necessity of having women on the board of directors of corporations large and small. The benefits would be wide-ranging and beyond these statistics: specifically, having one or more women in any boardroom would go a long way to eliminating ills mentioned at the top of this article: entrenched male power, patriarchy, misogyny.
But this process will not occur overnight. In the meantime, however, we can take advantage of some incredible numbers to make the change happen ourselves, in our own companies. In August 2018 the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs found:
Women-owned employer firms in the United States increased by approximately 2.8 percent in 2016 to 1,118,863 from 1,088,466 in 2015…7
In addition, decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results.8
To reiterate, there is recent and dramatic increase in women-owned businesses, but a deficit in corporate boardrooms. But we could find no specific studies or statistics to shed light on this troubling dichotomy. Therefore, the overarching issue is a lack in overall strategy.
So, what is our solution to rectify this situation?
Answer this question along with us. Register for the Women’s Leadership Roundtable in Longmont at The Experience Building on October 26.
Cites / Quotes
1“Women are gaining ground in Charlotte’s boardrooms” Charlotte Business Journal https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2018/02/02/women-are-gaining-ground-in-charlotte-s-boardrooms.html
2“Colorado’s boardrooms are short on women, and that’s bad for business. New effort focuses on teaching ‘unwritten rules’ ” The Denver Post https://www.denverpost.com/2018/05/08/women-colorado-corporate-boards/
3“Missing Pieces Report: The 2016 Board Diversity Census of Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards” Catalyst.org https://www.catalyst.org/system/files/2016_board_diversity_census_deloitte_abd.pdf
4“Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100” AEI.org https://www.aei.org/publication/women-earned-majority-of-doctoral-degrees-in-2016-for-8th-straight-year-and-outnumber-men-in-grad-school-135-to-100/
5“What Glass Ceiling? California May Become First State to Mandate Women on Corporate Boards” Forbes http://fortune.com/2018/08/28/california-glass-ceiling-bill-mandate-women-executives-corporate-boards/
6“Companies With More Women Board Directors Experience Higher Financial Performance, According to Latest Catalyst Bottom Line Report” Catalyst.org https://www.catalyst.org/media/companies-more-women-board-directors-experience-higher-financial-performance-according-latest
7“Number of Women-Owned Employer Firms Increases” Census.gov https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/employer-firms.html
8“New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work” Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/eriklarson/2017/09/21/new-research-diversity-inclusion-better-decision-making-at-work/
Other linked articles / resources:
California Bill Text, SB-826 Corporations: boards of directors. (2017-2018) https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB826
Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs (ASE) https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/ase.html
Additional resources of interest:
Women as Agents of Change : Having Voice in Society and Influencing Policy https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/21031
Just 24 companies on the S&P 500 are led by female CEOs https://www.cbsnews.com/news/just-24-companies-on-the-s-p-500-are-led-by-female-ceos/
Want to Restore Public Trust? Place Women on Boards https://www.cbsnews.com/news/want-to-restore-public-trust-place-women-on-boards/
Diversity and Inclusion Is A Business Strategy, Not An HR Program https://joshbersin.com/2018/08/diversity-and-inclusion-is-a-business-strategy-not-an-hr-program/