From Rosie to Corporate Boards in 75 Years

Mar 8th, 2017 | By | Category: Career Growth, Uncategorized

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In 1942 the song “Rosie the Riveter” marked the start of U.S. women becoming employed in traditional male positions. By November 15, 2017, it is highly likely that women will finally reach 20% of U.S. corporate board membership since 2020 Women on Boards’ January 2017 Gender Diversity Index (GDI) showed:

  • 19.7% of the seats at U.S. top companies are now occupied by women, up from 14.6% reported in the first GDI report in 2011.
  • An all-time low of 8% of U.S. top companies with zero women on their corporate boards.

117 2020 WOB Gender Diversity Index - 600x305res72 - for Blog

What’s so important about November 15, 2017? It is THE DATE when cities across the country join C-suite and senior level executives through roundtable discussions and networking opportunities to engage in 2020 Women on Boards’ NATIONAL CONVERSATION ON BOARD DIVERSITY, with this year’s discussion question being,

 “Building the pipeline:  How do we prepare ourselves and find director opportunities?”

2020 Women on Boards (2020WOB.com) is a grassroots campaign to raise the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020. I am the 2020 Women on Boards (WOB) Chicago Steering Committee Chair and we—nationally and locally—achieve our objective by engaging stakeholders—consumers, employees, and shareholders—asking them to speak out and create a tipping point for change.

Please mark your calendars for November 15, 2017 and, if you’re in Chicago, plan on joining us. We’re in the midst of creating a program where you’ll have opportunities to talk one-on-one with 10-15 women and men who are currently sitting on 1-5 corporate boards—private company boards and those public companies listed on NYSE, NASDAQ, or other public exchanges—plus hear a panel of speakers with those same profiles covering the topic of how to get prepared and then secure corporate board of director seats.

Kamerick Eileen - headshot small - 51x72res72 - 4Soon we will be announcing the names of those panelists and one-on-one speakers. We have already secured our Chicago moderator for this event: Eileen Kamerick, who currently serves as a board director for three public companies:

  • Associated Banc-Corp (NYSE), a $30B in assets major Midwest banking franchise that was cited by Forbes magazine as a most trusted company for financial reporting, where she is Chair of the Corporate Governance Committee that received a “1” in Governance Quick Score; the former Chair for seven years of the Audit Committee; the former Chair of Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering Committee that earned high compliance ratings from the OCC and Federal Reserve; and a member of the Corporate Development Committee.
  • Legg Mason Closed End Mutual Funds (NYSE), a leading mutual fund with 31 separate funds, including energy MLPs, emerging markets, and fixed income funds, where she is Chair of the Audit Committee that partnered with management to align valuation processes to best in class standard in the mutual fund industry; and a Nominating and Governance Committee member.
  • Hochschild Mining PLC (LSE), a leading precious metals company and FTSE 250 constituent that she joined in November 2016.

What’s to be gained—outside of a “feel good” emotion by increasing the number of women on corporate boards?

  • Since my 2014 blogs, The Next Question Your Investors Will Ask, and Pressure on Corporate Boards is Building, research continues to show that adding diversity to corporate boards and management results in higher returns in multiple categories and fewer risk-taking behaviors. Breaking up group think works wonders.
  • “Social media backlash can be ugly…and hard to control,” stated my 2014 white paper, More Women on Corporate Boards, which is where I “caught” that the tide was turning with more companies adding women to their boards than those without any women.   This statement is even truer today. Case in point: State Street Global Advisors, a nearly $2.5 trillion investor, just installed a statue of a defiant girl facing New York City’s famous Wall Street bull statue as a visual statement that’s sure to go viral on social media. State Street installed the statute to reinforce that it will be voting “against boards if a company fails to take steps to increase its number of [board] members who are women,” reports Business Insider in its 3/7/17 article, A $2.5 trillion asset manager just put a statue of a defiant girl in front of the Wall Street bull, by Rachael Levy. Social media commentary causes impacts.

If corporate boards are already at/near 20%, what’s the big deal?

  • The top U.S. companies are close to 20%, but go down a bit further in revenue size and it’s a different story. For example, State Street says in Levy’s article that “currently, nearly a quarter of boards represented in the Russell 3000 have no women at all.” Those numbers for women on boards lessens even more for private companies and smaller revenue size public companies.
  • It’s not just corporations that are lacking women where strategic financial decisions are occurring. If you’re in Chicago tomorrow, join a very interesting lunch at Morningstar that is being sponsored by Chicago Financial Women (www.chicagofw.org). The topic: “Fund Industry by Gender: The Global Landscape,” a white paper discussion by the authors Laura Pavlenko Lutton and Madison Sargis from Morningstar. Their paper’s findings show that across 56 countries only about one in five funds has a woman manager and nothing much has changed in the eight year timeframe since Morningstar last conducted this research.

There’s a lot of work to do to increase the representation of ½ of the population in strategic corporate financial decision making positions…and, yes, Rosie, We Can Do It!

 

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